Every adult crow requires at least 11 ounces of food daily for optimal sustenance. For this reason, these birds can eat nearly anything. But the main question remains: Are crows scavengers, omnivores, or carnivores?
The simple answer is crows are both scavengers and omnivores. This is because these birds can feed on plants and animals, whether alive, dead, or decaying. And to some extent, crows are carnivores, although not obligate, because their diet also comprises plants rather than 100% meat.
Since crows are omnivores and scavengers, what do they eat and don’t eat? You can find out this and much more in our detailed blog post.
Are Crows Scavengers Or Omnivores Or Carnivores?
Crows are omnivores and scavengers but not 100% carnivores. These birds are considered true omnivores because they feed on nearly everything they come across, making them opportunistic feeders. This includes both animal and plant matter. However, most crow species feed on plants and occasionally on animals since they lack adept hunting skills.
So, what kind of plant and animal matter do crows eat? Overall, the diet of an American crow comprises about three-quarters of seeds and fruits or simply 72% of plants. This includes:
- Corn and wheat
- Grapes and berries
- Varieties of nuts
Regarding animal material, these omnivorous opportunists can kill and eat a wide variety of small animals, including:
- Land and aquatic mammals
Surprisingly, crows also feed on the nestlings and eggs of various bird species, including the robins, sparrows, and jays. Besides consuming plants and animal products, crows are also true scavengers.
They eat animal carcasses left behind by other predators, roadkill, or decaying plant material. Often, you will spot these carrion crows at the garbage dumps scavenging for rotting meat and anything else they could eat.
Now, you might be wondering, why are carrion crows not carnivores yet feed on animal flesh? As it turns out, these bird feeders are not true meat eaters because their diet also comprises amounts of plant material.
And as you might already know, carnivorous animals are organisms that primarily eat the flesh of animals as opposed to plants. In other words, they hunt, kill and eat other animals for nutrition and survival. The reason being their digestive systems cannot digest plants properly. Such animals include:
- Lions and felines
- Polar bear species
- Birds of prey
What Do Crows Eat?
Crows have the most diverse diet, so they can survive nearly anywhere. However, their diet usually changes in seasons depending on abundant food sources.
That said, during the summer and the breeding season, most species of crow feed on animal matter. They will eat small insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and small mammals. In winter, crows mostly eat fruits, seeds, organic material, and nuts.
On the other hand, most crow species feed heavily on seeds, a variety of nuts, grains, and fruits in the fall. During spring, they prefer small insects like grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, larvae, worms, snails, and slugs.
Also read: Can Crows Be Trained Like Parrots?
Can a Crow Eat A Dead Crow?
Yes, but rarely. Since crows are scavengers, they can feed on dead animals, including birds such as crows. This explains why they are also known as carrion birds. However, most crow species only eat one of their own for survival when no other food resources are available.
Sometimes, fights may erupt among different crow families resulting in the death of some birds. In such a situation, some crows will feed on the dead birds. In other cases, these blackbirds will snatch freshly killed crows from other predators.
But overall, most crow species won’t dare touch a dead body of their fellow or even eat it. In fact, you will see these birds holding funerals for their loved ones.
What Should Crows Not Eat?
Crows can eat nearly anything they find, including spoiled meat and food straight out of a dumpster. In other words, these blackbirds have a wide range of foods to choose from daily.
Even so, there are some particular food items crows should never eat. These include seeds and pits from fruits like cherries, apples, and pears. The reason being they contain a toxic compound called cyanide. Other foods to avoid are:
- Dried or uncooked beans
- Foods rich in sugar like chocolate
- Salted nuts containing additives
- Pepper and large amounts of onions
Can Crows Get Sick From Eating Spoiled and Rotten Meat?
No. All opportunistic scavengers, including black vultures, never get sick from eating dead carcasses. This is because before crows can make a meal of carrion, the remains of animals are usually broken down by bacteria. Consequently, this helps release most toxic chemicals, making the rotten meat safe for these birds of prey to consume.
Additionally, the digestive system of crows contains some powerful acids. Therefore, once the bird ingests the spoiled meat, the acids destroy any remaining toxic microbes.
Now, let’s quickly go through frequently asked questions about crows being omnivores, scavengers, or carnivores.
The answer is crows and bearded vultures. They are called natural scavengers because these birds eat decaying animal tissue and plant matter. Consequently, they help keep the environment clean by freeing the ecosystem.
All types of crows are omnivores and true scavengers. They also feed on animal-based diets, making them carnivores but not 100% since they eat aquatic plants. These include the American bird, cape crow, hooded crow, Hawaiian crow, and Northwestern crow.
Yes, without any hesitation. This is because crows are opportunistic feeders as well as scavengers. Therefore, these blackbirds will eat whatever is available. However, some crows may not eat dead crows.
Related: Are Crows Smarter Than Dogs?
Overall, crows can eat almost anything. This, therefore, makes these common birds both scavengers and omnivorous animals. And to some extent, they can also be considered carnivorous birds since they are meat lovers.
However, their diet usually changes with the season, and some crows can eat one of their own for survival. With that said, you should know there are some types of foods crows should never eat, like salted nuts and uncooked beans.