– Hi, I’m Kevin McGowan from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I’d like to teach you about crows. I’ve been studying the American Crow for over 30 years.

I’ve spent thousands of hours closely watching one of the most common birds in North America, and I keep doing it.

Thousands of hours watching crows, and I still see new things all the time. Who knew the common black bird I grew up not paying attention to would turn out to be one of the most fascinating birds on the planet? And I’d like to tell you about them.

They may be common, but their lives are anything but simple. The American Crow displays more human-like traits than perhaps any other animal. Intelligence, adaptability, sociability, and caring, with strong family values and lifelong bonds.

And just like people, there can be moments of lust, betrayal, or even murder. But they’re not people. They don’t have the same lifestyles that we do.

They’re birds, trying to eke out a living in the world, and the fact that they’re not people, but have so many things in common with us, makes me appreciate the complexities of the world even more.

I hope you’ll join me to talk about one of the most interesting birds on the planet, one that lives in your own back yard, the American Crow.

End of transcript

Get to Know The Crow

This course is all about the remarkable lives of American Crows. Taught by world-renowned crow biologist Dr. Kevin McGowan, who has worked with a banded population for decades, you’ll get an inside look into what makes them so compelling—from their complex social lives to their impressive problem-solving skills.

  • Explore the rich family lives and surprising social networks of crows
  • Confidently distinguish between crows and ravens using our identification tips
  • Get an insider's perspective on what we know about crow intelligence

Anything but Common: The Hidden Life of the American Crow

Enroll Now
About This Course
  • Lessons inside: 3
  • Topics inside: 14
  • Completion time (estimated): 3 hours
  • Instructional videos: 9
  • Total instructional video time: 1.25 hours
  • Level: Beginner
  • Categories: Bird Biology, Nature Appreciation
  • Regionality: United States/Canada – General
  • CEU credits: 0.3 (optional additional purchase)
  • SnapID makes practice easy
  • Discussion groups to keep you learning
  • Self-paced, no expiration date, 100% online
  • 60-day refund guarantee
American Crow in flowering tree
Image: Kevin J. McGowan
American Crow

Why I Made This Course

"After thousands of hours and several decades of studying the American Crow, I am still learning new things all the time.  This common black bird, that few of us pay much attention to, is one of the most fascinating and misunderstood on the planet.

I am excited to share with you what our research has revealed about the rich natural history, captivating behavior, and creative genius of crows.  Once you uncover the hidden lives of these birds, you will never consider crows ‘common’ again."

—Kevin McGowan, Ph.D., Course Instructor

What's Inside

You’ll enjoy 10 instructional videos packed with facts and stories to help you understand life from a crow’s perspective, 7 SnapIDs to hone your crow and raven identification skills, 3 quizzes to reinforce your learning, and just for fun, an exclusive exercise that challenges you to distinguish individual crows.

– [Kevin] This course first will introduce you to what makes a crow a crow. What’s a crow, and what’s not?

The bulk of the information presented in the course is the result of my own research and that of our crow research group based out of Cornell and Binghamton University.

Our research has been based on knowing crows as individuals and tracking them throughout their lives. This approach has allowed us to find out many things about crow lives, some mundane, some unexpected, many complicated and surprising.

In the second section, we’ll delve deeply into the everyday lives of the American Crow. What’s the basic social unit of the species? How crows interact and work together, or not. What happens in the normal life of a crow?

We’ll talk of roosts, flocks and families, good family values and neighborhood watch. We’ll consider crow intelligence and creativity, how crows meet the challenge of a changing world.

The final section considers less obvious parts of a crow’s life. We’ll look at things that couldn’t be discovered without long hours of intense observation of individual birds, sophisticated lab techniques, scientific sleuthing, and just plain luck.

We’ll talk of junk food, coalitions and competition, friendships, and foul play, betrayal, double-cross, and murder. I’m sure we’ll tell you things you didn’t know about crows because we’ve discovered things we never expected.

I still shake my head sometimes and think, really? This common black bird does that? Who would’ve known?

End of transcript

Course Overview

Lesson 1:
Get to Know the Crow

Learn what makes a crow a crow, practice telling the difference between the American Crow and Common Raven, and go behind the scenes with a crow research group.

Lesson 2:
Families, Flocks, and Creativity

Crows are devoted family members, community-oriented, and adaptable. They make great neighbors!

Lesson 3:
The Secret Life of the American Crow

Just as with people, there’s some drama in the lives of crows… including a real murder mystery.

Meet the Course Instructor

Kevin McGowan, Ph.D.
Professional Ornithologist, World Series of Birding Champion
Course instructor Kevin McGowan combines deep knowledge about birds with a passion for helping others learn. He is a professional ornithologist at...

Hear What Students Have to Say

Your instructor has presented this material in live webinars and in-person seminars over many years, here is what they’ve had to say.

Information about crows was fascinating. Presenter's depth of knowledge impressive and the ability to translate to lay people was excellent."

Bird Academy Student

I've developed greater appreciation for the ten American Crows that are raiding my bird feeders!"

Bird Academy Student

All aspects contributed to my knowledge of crows, but the topic of the real culprits of nest predation blew me away."

Bird Academy Student

Crows are just about the most fascinating birds on earth, and I'm always eager to learn more about them."

Bird Academy Student

I had NO idea that the roost was such a dynamic population. Crows are full of surprises."

Bird Academy Student

I’ve been a birder for almost forty years, so I am not pre-disposed to dislike crows or subscribe to any of the prejudices against them. However, I readily admit that I took them for granted and even dismissed them as predictable. Now I know what I have been missing out on all these years! What remarkable creatures they are. I am going to spread the word. I consider this a public service!"

Bird Academy Student

I am grateful to the researchers at Cornell for the work they've done to understand the American Crow. This course is the best online course I've ever taken. "

Bird Academy Student
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Satisfaction Guarantee

Our educators and birding experts take pride in the courses they create. If you're not satisfied with the material for ANY reason, contact us within 60 days of the start of the course or purchase for a full refund.

Alternative Course Access

Birds can inspire people accross boundaries to build a more sustainable world. At Bird Academy we want to share the love and knowledge of birds! If you would like alternative access to this course, please take a look at our Take Flight Program

This Course is Entirely Online

There’s nothing to be shipped, and no additional material is necessary. Bird Academy courses are online, self-paced, and there is no deadline to complete them. You can return to them for reference or practice as often as you want. All course material, practice tools, instructional videos, and quizzes are available through your web browser. Learn anytime, anywhere*. Gain the skills and understanding you’re looking for.

*Requires an internet connection and a modern web browser.

Course credits:
Course Author and Instructor: Dr. Kevin McGowan
Course Developers: Elissa Johnson, Lee Ann van Leer
Video Producer and Editor: Shayna Muller
Assistant Editor: Domenick Zerilli
Instructional Designers: Mya Thompson, Jeff Szuc
Web Designer: Jeff Szuc
Copy Editor: Noah Warnke

Top Video:
Narrator: Kevin McGowan
Producer and Editor: Domenick Zerilli, Dom Z. Production
Kevin McGowan research and Crows on compost, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
American Crow Vocalization, DOTV/Pond5
American Crow, Jay McGowan/Macaulay Library
American Crow Southern Migration, DOTV/Pond5
Pair Of Crows, DembinskyPhotoAssociates/Pond5
Crows On Tree At Sunset, fotospirale/Pond5
American Crows Foraging, Timothy Barksdale/Macaulay Library
American Crow Perched, Jay McGowan/Macaulay Library
American Crow foraging, Timothy Barksdale/Macaulay Library
American Crow Preening, Timothy Barksdale/Macaulay Library

What's Inside Video:
Narrator: Kevin McGowan
Producer and Editor: Jeff Szuc
In order of appearance:
American Crow: Jamie Chavez/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Paul Fenwick/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Russ Morgan/Macaulay Library
Red-winged Blackbird: Mike Miller/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Craig Gibson/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Kevin McGowan
American Crow: Jeremiah Trimble/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Kevin McGowan
American Crow: Kevin McGowan
American Crow: Kevin McGowan
American Crow: David Tonnessen/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Steven Macaulay Library odinow/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Cheri Phillips/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Don Roberson/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Kathryn Keith/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Ann Baldwin/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Bruce Mast/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Ann Vaughan/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Anonymous eBirder/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Jamie Spence/Macaulay Library
American Crow: David Burleson/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Kevin McGowan
American Crow: Belen Schneider/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Helene Crete/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Liette Desfosses/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Dennis Kent/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Anonymous eBirder/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Kevin McGowan/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Tim Lenz/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Elizabeth Curley/Macaulay Library
American Crow: Peter Svensson/Macaulay Library

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