Crows rarely forage in my backyard — I guess they don’t like birdseed. But the seed does attract small mammals (mice, voles, and chipmunks as well as squirrels), and there are plenty of toads (or toadlets, depending on the time of year) and usually a good supply of ground insects — all of which crows ought to like. My backyard crows are wary birds; they typically fly off the instant they detect a camera pointed at them from my porch windows 200 feet away.
So I was surprised the other day when a crow spent a good 20 minutes strutting around through the “grass” poking into the thatch and turning over bits of wood and mulch, looking for whatever was creeping around out there.
Looking forward with its binocular vision into the grass or tilting its head to the side (to listen?)… I never noticed that crows seem to have a ridge line of feathers between their eyes that sticks out and kind of gives them a unibrow.
The bird spent a lot of time pulling thatch up and peering under it. I suppose there might be insects hiding under there.
A curious stance, after making a grab for something that I think it missed.
This bird was very intent on something in this patch of thatchey grass…
A quick, beak-first strike. Notice that the crow has closed its third eyelid (nictatating membrane) over its eye, probably to protect the delicate cornea from getting pierced by stray sticks. Birds can see through this tough membrane, but their vision of course would be fuzzier.
Success! There was something in the grass all right. It could have been a toad, or possibly a mouse. I can see what looks like a tail projecting from the tip of the beak. The nictatating membrane gives the eye a bluish cast.
The bird made several more attempts to grab critters in the grass, and might have been successful once or twice more, although I couldn’t see what it was taking.
Crows are amazingly adaptive animals, and will eat a wide variety of fruits, seeds and berries, as well as insects, reptiles, small mammals and eggs, even pet food. They are ground foragers, and usually share information about food resources they have discovered with other family members. This particular bird, however, kept its success to itself.