Crows are moderate-sized birds with relatively large wingspans.
Their feathers are thick and broad enough to allow steering through rising air-drafts or thermals.
So just like birds of prey, a crow can use thermals to reach thousands of feet above the ground.
Most crows fly only as high as 250-3000 feet from sea level.
Here’s what you’re going to discover in this article
- Can crows fly high?
- The highest altitude a crow can fly
- Can a eagle fly higher than a crow?
So if you’re interested in all about crows and their flying skills then you’re going to love this article
Let’s get started!
Can Crows Fly High?
Theoretically, a crow can soar at thousands of miles above sea level.
A crows wings and body measurements are comparable to the smallest of hawks.
Crows can also use rising air currents or thermals to their own advantage.
However, thermals are limited to certain places and times.
Therefore, crows also circle and glide to reach heights.
Crows don’t usually do so.
In fact, most crows fly through fluttering just how a parrot does.
Let’s look at the reasons why
1. Head To Body Ratio
Typically, raptors have small heads on relatively large bodies.
Ornithologists associate this adaptation with crows having larger brains.
However, it also means that crow bodies are less streamlined, and so:
A crow would likely experience more air resistance than a hawk would.
This also explains why crow dive speeds are slower than raptors.
For instance, American Crow can dive as fast as 40 miles/hour.
Meanwhile, a sparrowhawk can adjust itself in a teardrop shape, exceeding dive speeds of 130 miles/hour.
2. Wing Arrangement And Flight Method
The crow wings arrangement lies somewhere between hawk and parrot wingspans.
A crow can fly through both fluttering as well as soaring.
Now, people mostly assume that parrots flap their feathers and create high air pressure beneath their wings.
Therefore, they fly through mere pressure changes.
While that is partially true, however,
Parrots can sweep air by controlling their feather density.
So, when a parrot strokes downwards its wings become concentrated sweeping more air below.
And when it strokes upwards, its wings experience back-pull expanding feathers and reducing air particles above wings.
Just like parrots,
A crow can flutter controlling its wing dispersion, minimizing energy costs.
But, a crow has thicker wings compared to an average parrot.
Furthermore, a crow’s wing arrangement is quite to those of raptors.
Since their wings are similar to both parrots and raptors.
So, crows are jack of all trades but masters of none.
Crows can neither soar as high as raptors nor flutter as much as parrots.
3. High Altitude Pressure
As the altitude increases, the atmospheric pressure drops, breathing air becomes difficult.
To fly at high altitudes, a bird must have a highly efficient breathing system.
For instance, a Griffon Vulture can fly at 37,000 feet above the ground.
They can consciously slow down their metabolism to reduce 50% of their oxygen requirements.
Furthermore, their lungs are highly efficient.
In contrast, Swans can endure changes in their blood pH.
Which means, their blood cells can bind more oxygen, allowing them to breathe at high altitudes.
Crows don’t have adaptations to breathe at low pressures.
Even if a crow can fly at high altitudes, it will eventually feel dizzy or faint altogether.
The temperature lowers with increasing altitudes, often reaching below the freezing point.
And so, regulating body temperature becomes a major issue.
Birds that fly at high altitudes prefer staying within 10,000 feet from sea level.
In fact, ornithologists suggest that most birds only hit 15,000 feet or above if they are migrating through a mountain range.
Even then, a vulture or swan can crane its neck inside its body to conserve heat.
However, crows don’t have highly efficient heat conservation systems.
If a crow were to fly above 20,000 feet, it will likely freeze out.
5. Water Retention
Since at high altitudes, water molecules condense to form clouds.
Therefore, the air is rather dry, which means that breathing at heights tends to take away more water molecules than normal breathing.
Some birds like Cranes float half-asleep on thermals by shutting down half their brains.
This slows down their breathing rates and therefore, hinders water removal.
But Crows cannot cope with such dehydration and are likely to become overly thirsty.
6. Average Senses
Therefore, for birds of prey, flying high means the ability to scan a wider territory for the prey.
However, crows are quite average birds with medium senses.
So, soaring at great heights would not be of much use to crows.
They are likely half-blind in high skies.
7. Lack Of Motivation
Even if a crow has all the adaptations to fly high, it would still not do so.
Because crows are also driven mainly by hunger, and their food is rather grounded.
You see, crows can eat almost everything.
They can eat from fruit and vegetables to worms and beetles.
They can even scavenge a dead animal.
Though crows do have poking bills, however, they don’t have much of a defense.
Which is why they tend to stay in families that protect each other.
Flying high would unnecessarily expose crows to raptors.
For instance, a falcon is swift enough to hunt birds mid-air and can easily grab crows.
And crows would make quite a wholesome meal for any raptor.
A crow is far safer near the ground than anywhere else.
Now, considering all this you may be wondering:
What Is The Highest Altitude a Crow Can Fly?
Now, crows mostly stay within 100-feet of the ground.
This helps them to easily forage as well as to hide in the trees whenever a threat is approaching.
Crows in urban areas may fly at 500-1500 feet from the ground.
This is mainly because flying through thermal conserves more energy than mere fluttering.
However, if crows are traveling to migrate then they would float at about 3000 feet.
A crow may only fly above 6000-feet if it must migrate through mountain passes.
But with environmental changes, we are currently seeing a change in water and air currents.
Therefore, there is not much telling how crows will travel through certain areas.
So, perhaps we will be seeing crows in high altitudes where they traveled only within 100-feet from the ground.
Even so, a resident crow is unlikely to take flights higher than 1000-feet.
Since crows often mob out raptors, you may be wondering if they can chase a raptor while gliding.
Can An Eagle Fly Higher Than a Crow?
It most certainly can.
Now, a bird’s ability to fly high depends on:
- Size of its wingspan.
- The shape and arrangement of those feathers.
- Its body mass as well as streamline body shape.
- Its ability to survive high altitudes.
- Its habitat and foraging habits.
Now an eagle weighs about 6kg with a wingspan greater than 2 meters.
Meanwhile, the biggest crow can weigh no more than 1.5 kgs with a wingspan of about 1 meter.
By comparing the wingspans, an eagle is likely to fly twice as high as a crow.
Some studies even suggest that eagles tend to float above storms to avoid these thunderstorms.
When crows mob an eagle, the raptor normally flies up rather than sideways to get away from crows!
Related article – Why do crows attack eagles?
A typical crow tends to fly within 1000-feet of the ground.
But it can soar above 5000 feet during migration.
Even so, such cases are rare.
Mostly because crows lack the adaptations to breathe at high altitudes or survive the freezing temperatures.
Crows don’t need to fly high for finding their food.
They tend to rely on their family when looking for food!
Related article you may be interested in – Why do crows attack hawks?