Do Crows Eat Dead Animals?

Written by: Annemarie Dutton
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Are Crows Eating Dead Animals-Something To Crow About?

You can find crows worldwide alone or in groups, called a murder.  They are fascinating birds. In some cultures crows are considered an omen of doom, while others see crows as the symbol of life and death.  

So, do crows eat dead animals?

Yes.  They are known as scavenger birds feeding on carrion. 

This article will explore the diet, behavior, and other information relating to crows as carrion birds.

What Does Carrion Mean?

Carrion means the decaying flesh of a dead body as food for scavenging animals.  Hence the term carrion birds.  

Depending on the size of the carcass and how much activity is around it, other omnivorous birds such as jays, pigeons, roadrunners, and hoopoes may also take advantage of carrion. Even some seabirds, including fulmars, may scavenge carrion from beached carcasses.

Not all dead animal bodies are carrions.  A dead animal killed and eaten by the same animal is not a carrion. It must have died from another cause.

Bodies of animals to be classified as carrion must have died as follow:

  • Animals killed by other predators
  • Hunted animals discarded by hunters
  • Roadkills of animals killed by vehicles
  • Animals that died from accidents
  • Animals that died naturally
  • Stranded animals

Why Do Crows Eat Dead Animals?

Carrion consumption does not conform to human and other animal norms. Crows have a different digestive system with higher tolerance for decomposing meat.

In most cases, the older the carcass, the tastier it will be for the crow because, as the meat ages, it becomes softer and more comfortable to eat.

While dead animals are a natural food source for crows and other carrion birds, they also come with risks, which include:

  • Disease transmission through excessive bacteria
  • Contamination from the previous carrion-eaters
  • Poison from the lead if the animal died from hunters
  • Contamination with pesticides
  • Possible attacks by other predators drawn by the scent of the dead animal
  • Potential vehicle collision when feeding on roadways

Like other carrion birds, Crows can adapt to these dangers.

Carrion birds have more potent stomach acids, helping them repel many disease-causing bacteria.

Crows and other carrion birds cannot detect lead and other toxins in a dead animal. Thus, it is ideal for hunters to switch to non-lead ammunition to help reduce these threats.

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Why does a crow eat roadkills?

The digestion system of crows can absorb nearly everything, consisting of roadkill and worn-out meat of dead animals. 

Do Crows Eat Meat? Older meat is considered tastier and also softer for crows. Furthermore, their gastrointestinal system is durable enough to reduce possible contamination and poisoning.

Crows are not birds of prey and would kill for meat only in severe circumstances. They like other animals to kill the prey and feed on the leftovers.

Rather than killing small animals like rabbits, they eat them on the roadway. It constitutes a significant resource of protein for them.

Digestive System Of Crows

Crows cannot chew their food.  The food travels down the esophagus to the crop, which is a storage organ, and from there, food is slowly released into the proventriculus.

Chemical digestion occurs in the proventriculus by gastric acid and enzymes, and the food then moves to the gizzard.  Crows will swallow stones that then stay in the gizzard, and these stones are used to help grind up the food into digestible bits.

After the gizzard, the small intestine absorbs the nutrients after which the large intestine and ceca absorb electrolytes and water. The remainder passes as feces to be expelled  into the cloaca, which is the common opening of the digestive, urinary and reproductive systems.

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Do Dead Bodies Attract Crows?

Dead bodies do attract crows as well as other carrion birds.  Crows may detect carrion through scent or sight.

Unlike other birds, crows are intelligent and super chatty and watch out for one another.

As adults, crows are difficult to kill.  Crows gather around a dead animal simply to feed on it.

But, when another crow dies, they gather for a very different reason.  The crow funeral is their way of learning the dangers surrounding them.

They study how that particular crow died and will alert other crows for their protection.  They can even study the cause of death and use the knowledge to fend off future predators.

Will Crows Consume A Dead Bird?

Crows are nature’s disposal bag. They can scavenge on practically any dead animal and bird. If they detect a dead bird, they would gladly eat it.

Do Crows Consume Their Dead?

Yes, crows can consume their own dead. They stay in family teams and often fight,  within and outside of their household.

A fight within the family is raret. A battle outside the family is usually to defend food, companions, or region boundaries.

To Summarize

  • Crows eat dead animals. They belong to the group of carrion birds known for being scavengers and dead animal eaters.
  • Carrion is the decaying or rotting flesh on a dead animal. It often serves as a food source for crows and other carrion birds.
  • Crows are attracted to dead animals and feed on them alone, in pairs, or in flocks.
  • Crowds gather around a dead animal for food. But, if another crow dies, they gather around to know the cause of death and alert other crows about it.
  • Unlike humans, crows and other carrion birds have a high tolerance for dead animals. Their digestive system can repel possible poisoning and contamination. Thus, they can eat dead animals with lesser risk.
  • Crows remember faces, especially those who pose threats and dangers to them. They also alert other crows to protect them from harm.
  • Aside from crows, other birds include dead animals in their diet.

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