[TN-Bird] American and Fish Crow ID - LONG

July 29, 2005
 
Fish Crows are really expanding with reports as far north as Maine recently  
on the net and they are advancing up a lot of major river systems.  Over here 
in west TN, they have increased big time and this past  winter in Dec/Jan, I 
had 100 to 150 up in Lake Co, on several days. Of  course they winter up that 
way but usually in very small numbers and only seen  or heard rarely except at 
the large roosts in the evenings, where they tend to  be off to themselves. 
Below here on the major lakes in north MS, we get them  pretty much on any 
given 
day in the winter and separating them by sight can  be done but with some 
practice and lots of looking at details.
 
If you see a bird perched up and calling, even if you can't hear the call,  a 
fair scope look at the posture plus a few other points will get you a better  
than fair chance at an ID. Fish Crow is a slicker bird and usually 
recognizably  slimmer and smaller, short legged, with a smaller slimmer sharply 
hooked 
bill  and even smaller feet but all that is pretty tough on a lone bird.
 
 A Fish Crow when calling, will look more slouched, shorter necked and  
almost always fluffs out the throat feathers into an easily seen bib with each  
calling effort. The American Crow stretches out it neck and extends forward and 
 
almost never shows a bib but usually a smooth throat. The feathers on the  
upper mantle of the American Crow can usually be individually seen as the edges 
 
stand out where a Fish Crow's feather tips meld together not showing the 
scaled  look or individual feathers just a solid appearance. The Fish Crows 
feathers are  usually shiny where an American's are duller. 
 
In flight, there is a difference in wing structure with the American having  
a more rounded look to the wing while a Fish has a more pointed wing. On Fish  
Crow, p-8 is the longest primary with p-7 only slightly shorter and p-6 &  
p-9 considerably shorter, plus p-10 is about the same length as p-5 all adding  
up to a more pointed look. On American Crows p-7 & 8 are about the same  
length and p6 & 9 only slightly shorter with p-10 the same length as p-4 for  a 
more rounded look. All that said you have to be careful due to molt timing and  
such but I find that more often than not you can get a good idea of the ID and  
hope for a call for confirmation;o) Practice-Practice-Practice
 
As far as single calls, they can be pretty tough as even adult American  
Crows gives single calls on certain occasions although slightly different from  
Fish but hard to differentiate without hearing a many calls over a period  of 
time. Female American will beg around nesting time, so that can account  for 
early season calls and their young will beg into August and later (these may  
be 
retarded teens;o) Begging calls can be heard from subordinate birds when  
approaching a dominant bird any time of the year. The double note call is your  
best bet because I don't think you will ever hear an American do anything  
resembling that call.
 
Fish Crows can be usually found around rookeries and zoos because they are  
famous egg predators. That would be a good place to go early and late to listen 
 for them.
 
 
Good  Birding!!!

Jeff R. Wilson
OL'COOT / TLBA
Bartlett,  TN

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