Crows in Snow

Not too many birds are out and about at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, which is hardly surprising considering the frigid weather we’ve been having lately. However, it seems that no matter what the conditions are, American crows are predictable, tried-and-true Nature Boardwalk patrons.

American crows are year-round residents in Illinois, so it’s expected to observe these birds here throughout the winter. At Nature Boardwalk, lately these birds have been congregating around the pond’s patches of open water. These patches are kept from freezing by aerators below. In winter, when many smaller bodies of water are frozen over, available drinking water becomes especially important for birds.

I watched one crow dig through the snow with its beak, foraging for something beneath the snow cover. After it finished foraging, the bird flew up into a nearby tree and began meticulously cleaning the snow off its bill. Just like a person scrapes off their shoes before entering a house, there was the crow scraping its bill from side to side against a branch.

Even though I see crows all the time, I never thought about how they would clean snow off their beak, but this beak scraping is a common grooming method for birds, so it makes perfect sense. Even when the boardwalk is rather quiet, as it is now, there is always something new to see or learn!

Vicky Hunt

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