Listen to 7 Sounds Crows Commonly Make

Written by Joanne Paiva
Updated: November 12, 2023
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crow perched on an old wood post

Crows can mimic and retain random sounds.

©iStock.com/CreativeNature_nl

The American crow is a highly intelligent social bird that emits many sounds to communicate with other crows or their young. These rambunctious birds are members of the Corvidae family, which includes nutcrackers, rooks, jackdaws, treepies, magpies, bluejays, choughs, and ravens. Listen to 7 sounds crows commonly make and when they make them. When they call, they move their heads up and down; each call and movement indicates a specific purpose. Large groups of crows, known as “murders,” are very loud. Their most common call is cawing, but they can also make several other calls and blend them to make a particular point. Their calls vary in volume as well as repetition and movement. Additionally, they are great at mimicking other birds, machines, and even human voices. They can repeat entire human phrases.

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An Intelligent Bird

Crow language is studied by researchers, scientists, and individuals who find these highly intelligent birds fascinating. They will hiss, strut, or hop about to communicate their feelings. A crow’s language originates from an organ called the syrinx in their throats at the base of the trachea. They produce sound with vibrations on the walls of the throat and airflow. Research has shown they remember objects or events; some feel they possess over 150 unique vocalizations, with some calls specific to certain flocks or species.

Their intelligence comes from the size of their body-to-brain ratio, their ability to memorize faces, and their social learning abilities. Having a larger brain allows for complex decision-making and problem-solving. They can memorize human faces and recognize a person even after much time has passed. These skill sets will enable them to identify environmental threats, including unfamiliar people and predators, navigate unfamiliar cities and patterns in their territories.

Crows learn from each other, can interpret warning signs from other crows, and will explore new environments they feel are safe. Since crows are social creatures, when they gather in “murders,” they will frequently call as a group to signal threats, coordinate activities, or maintain their bonds. They are loud when they call together in groups, which carries over long distances. Perhaps this signals other crows of their location. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology claims that crows are more complex communicators than many other birds. Their distinct ways of communicating have been studied by many, and their findings are shared. In the following article, you can listen to 7 sounds crows commonly make.

Types of Calls

Crows either respond to something happening when they make calls or randomly make noise not connected to anything they are experiencing. These noisy birds make a “caw” sound they repeat to defend their territory and to communicate with each other over long distances. A repetitive “caw” is the most common call they make to establish their presence and garner attention. They will also increase their volume when excited or alarmed in a group of crows. When calling other crows, their bobbing head movement helps to provide visual cues and emphasize their message. Crows make a variety of calls with specific meanings. Listen to 7 sounds crows commonly make, which they also combine to create many more sounds:

  1. Cawing with up to 10 repetitions
  2. Clicking or rattling
  3. Companion
  4. Food-related
  5. Annoyance, scolding, or territory issue
  6. Whining juvenile
  7. Alarms or mobbing

Cawing with up to 10 Repetitions

Crows will hold funerals for their dead by calling out to others to attend.

This is the most common crow call, often interrupted by a pause and repeated. The duration, tone, and pitch can vary and sound like the word “caw,” making it a classic identifier for them. It serves as a unique sound for each crow. Crows can do this all day long to the disapproval of those within earshot. Some think crows use this sound to check in with each other, communicate their status, attract attention, and share their mood. Sometimes, two to three crows join in. In addition, it can signal their territory and give a status that the area is safe from predators or that everything is fine. No one knows what the number of repetitions means, but it is likely the more repetitions, the higher the message urgency. Singular caws typically indicate to other family members that they have found a food source.

Clicking or Rattling Call

Crows have close family units that can last up to five generations.

This low-pitched call is mechanical or metallic sounding compared to a ratchet’s turning. Crows make clicking or rattling sounds by rapidly vibrating their vocal organs. This sound communicates with other crows during foraging and when encountering threats. In addition, it could indicate a need for help. The rattle sound maintains group bonding and establishes dominant hierarchies. It is also an intimate call to a close crow family member. Mated pairs rattle and coo to each other as it renews connections and includes a type of singing and nuzzling sound. Juveniles make this sound to call their parents back to the nest when they are feeling bored or lonely. Additionally, it is used when crows socialize and play with each other.

Companion Call

Crows will mate for life.

This sound combines the caw call with periods of silence, possibly while waiting for a response. Next, they produce another burst of calls that can go on for a long time. This call doesn’t indicate anything specific; it’s just a way for them to check in with each other. When the call becomes faster, it can sound like a dog barking. Crows will make this call when they see a dog. Sometimes, this sound is a low-level warning.

Crows are announcing to others nearby that it’s time to eat.

It seems like a bad idea for a crow to announce their food source, but they have their reasons for sharing. Crows will make this call to recruit other crows, reduce the risk of predators, and increase their status and efficiency in foraging for food.

Annoyance, Scolding, or Territory Issues Call

Crows are the ultimate angry bird.

When a threat is not a high alarm threat but is still bothersome, crows will sound like an annoyance or scolding call. They tend to scold quite a bit as they are suspicious by nature. If something threatens them, they will make sure to sound this call. It is less intense than a mobbing call but more intense than a companion call.

Whining Juveniles Call

Crows help each other to feed and raise their young.

Baby crows whine a lot as they are very demanding, and their call leaves no doubt. It is non-stop, annoying, and not easy to ignore. They don’t realize that being alone isn’t a reason to call the alarm and send out a message of being in danger. Until they learn not to do this, they whine quite a bit. Sometimes, the presence of a human will soothe them if the nest is close to where people are present.

Alarms or Mobbing Call

Gathering crows will fend off predators.

When there is a predator nearby, a threat on a territory, or even a car, a person, or a dog in the area, the alarm call will sound. Anything new or unexpected could evoke this call. Even though a crow is calling to warn other crows, other types of birds within earshot will also become alarmed and interpret it as a warning to get out of the area.

Mobbing calls happen when there is a predator, and the crow wants to call in for reinforcements. For example, this sound occurs when there is a predator threat to a nest. Crows will dive-bomb and chase a predator away while making a lot of noise to immediately send a message to leave the area. Sharp-shinned hawks have been reported to invade a crow’s territory, whereby the crow emits a series of calls to get other crows to come to their aid. When a single hawk is isolated from the group, crows will surround it by flying above, below, and on each side. One crow will stomp on the hawk’s wing until it rocks and loses its balance, while the crows underneath lift the other wing, resulting in the hawk’s death.

Understanding Crows and their Sounds Better

People tend to feed and talk to crows visiting their gardens. And crows tend to listen to conversations directed at them. They can detect familiar voices and even different languages. Listen to 7 sounds crows commonly make to explain the meaning of their various calls and what they are trying to convey to each other and those around them. The difference between a whiny baby call and an adult crow in danger is essential when a crow is assessing a situation. When a large crowd of crows develops, it is an indication that there is a serious problem for them to deal with.

The Difference Between a Raven Call and a Crow Call

Ravens and crows produce different sounds and vary in size.

Ravens and crows can look similar. However, the raven is a larger bird and often travels in pairs, while crows travel in groups. In addition, another distinguishing feature is a raven’s tail feathers are longer in the center, while crows are the same length. Additionally, ravens have bigger curved beaks than crows. They both tend to talk to themselves and will do this alone. Both use human language to soothe and amuse themselves. Their calls are similar but not exactly alike. The raven’s call is throatier, deeper, and even musical. Crows can mimic car alarms, barking dogs, and human voices. They both can learn human language.

It’s possible to teach a crow to repeat human phrases.

Symbolism and the Meaning of Crow Calls

Crows are surrounded by mystery, centuries of mysticism, and lore. The parts they have played in history have included divine messenger and harbinger of death. They pose handsomely with their shiny black feathers and conjure various feelings in humans and other creatures. Here are some common meanings their sounds have invoked in humans over the years.

Their connection to the spirit world has spread throughout many cultures, from North America to Europe. They were thought to possess the power of being a spiritual bridge to the gods. Some believed their cawing meant that prayers were sent and heard. Many cultures believed that crows were clairvoyant and could detect changes that were to come.

Listen to 7 sounds crows commonly make to prompt one to use their voice in speaking their mind. The crow’s loudness reminds some to pay attention to their own lives. If the day starts with a crow cawing, some consider it a sign of good fortune.

Crows are diurnal, much like humans, and spend most of their active time during the day while resting at night. Hearing their calls after dark showed impending danger and bad luck. A crow cawing three times in a row indicated that a close friend or relative had passed, and they shared that they had crossed over peacefully.

Folklore and Mythology

Featured prominently in many cultures worldwide, the crow is often shown as a wise and powerful creature. In addition, they were depicted as messengers of the gods. For instance, in Greek mythology, they were messengers of Apollo carrying messages of destiny or forewarning. The Hindus know them as Yama, the messenger of their god of justice and death. Native Americans see them as powerful omens and carriers of history, minds, and stories. The Japanese view them as omens of disaster or death. But overall, they are seen as symbols of strength, representing intelligence and the ability to decipher mysteries and possess metaphysical powers.

In Conclusion

The American crow is not known for their beautiful song like some other birds. However, they are appreciated for their intelligence and are adept at communicating with each other about the status of their environment and mood. Some guess that crows can make over 20 different calls, but not all are classified individually. They can be combinations of calls or a variety of intensities. Crows don’t only communicate with calls but also with their body language. When calling, they will move their wings and tails to express submission or aggression and signal that a predator or an intruder is in their territory.

Some feel that crows are pests. For example, farmers protect their crops and seedlings by erecting a scarecrow dressed as a human to scare them away. Others appreciate them for their ingenuity, adaptability, and intelligence. They are used to scare away predatory birds. They have coexisted with humans for centuries and are highly regarded for their abilities to hunt, use, and store their resources. In addition, they are successfully trained to sort trash from items to be recycled in urban settings. Listen to 7 sounds crows commonly make to learn more about this fascinating bird, a great communicator who socializes with not only their species but with humans.

Types of Crow CallsMeaning
Cawing with up to 10 repetitions   Checking in
Clicking or rattlingCall for help or to bond
CompanionChecking in and receiving a response
Food-relatedShare food
Annoyance, scolding, or territory issueThreatened or bothered
Whining juvenileJuveniles calling their parents
Alarms or mobbingPredator warning
List of crow calls and their meanings.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Belmin Mesanovic/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Creative writing has always been a passion of mine. When Iā€™m not writing or reading, I can be found outdoors exploring, birdwatching, and hiking.

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