Northwestern Crow        Corvus caurinus

One of several major upland predators that invade the intertidal zone at low tide is the Northwestern Crow.   About an inch smaller than the American Crow, the Northwestern, at 16 inches long, is the common crow along the shoreline from southern Puget Sound to SE Alaska.  The American Crow is found throughout the rest of America and has a higher pitched and less course call than the Northwestern Crow.  However some experts feel that they are not different enough to be considered separate species.  Another larger crow-like bird that might be seen along the shoreline further north along Puget Sound is the Raven.  It is much bigger (24 inches) and has a wedge-shaped tail.

During daylight low tides groups of crows search the beach including under every rock or blade of kelp for small crabs, worms, clams and other tasty treats.  They are quite comical as they hop and waddle around looking with a cocked eye for movement or a clam squirt.  They are also very clever.  They open the hard shell of a clam by using the same method as seagulls - dropping it on something hard.  However they sometimes go a step further, washing off any sand on the clam meat in the nearest handy water source such as a bird bath.  They also feed on the uplands where they rob nests, take baby birds and feed on a wide variety of other foods.

During fall and winter large numbers gather in a single nightly roost which are often miles from daily foraging sites.  But in the spring the birds break into smaller groups and begin the serious business of producing the next generation.  During this period the crows are more secretive and are not as noisy.  They often nest in trees, building large nests of sticks.  Laying several eggs, parents that are helped by non-breeding second year birds can raise more than one chick.  After the baby leaves the nest they follow the parent constantly begging for food with loud "please feed me" calls.