Crows Circling And Cawing

Like raptors, crows also fly in circles only to ride the rising air updrafts or “Thermals”.

But crows’ success as a species comes from their ability to communicate with each other, rather than their individual strengths. 

If crows are circling and cawing simultaneously, they are simply riding a thermal while exchanging information. 

What Does It Mean When Crows Are Circling And Cawing?

Odds are they are either looking for food, discussing new housing, or pointing out some threat.

Or maybe, they are just migrating through the region.

Regardless, in all cases, their circling motion corresponds to the presence of a thermal and their conscious efforts to stay within its range.

However, traveling on thermals or these air updrafts allow a bird to reach great heights while conserving its energy. 

Anyways, crows circling and cawing may mean the following reasons:

1. Scouting For Resources

Being omnivorous scavengers, crows can eat anything from fresh vegetables to decaying carrion.

But such a vast menu makes crows rather picky about their diet. 

Crows tend to survey all food resources before settling in for their favorite treats.

Crows are exceptionally social birds that rely heavily on each other for security and other purposes.

If crows ever find a food resource big enough to share, they caw and call in their fellow birds.

This sharing ensures a large crow population while reducing competition from other animals.

So, if crows are cawing and circling around a single place, they may have spotted some food reserve.

2. Water Resources

Like other birds, crows also drink water and take frequent baths. However, they often store their food in water to soften it or sometimes to cleanse it. So, 

If there is a huge water reserve around a thermal, crows will circle and caw to mark their territory and claim the water reserve.

Typically, a few crows stay airborne and some sit in trees, while others go down and drink to their fill.

This ensures the safety of all the flock members. 

3. Warnings

Crows’ ability to relay new information is at the core of their survival.

They tend to produce distress calls when spotting any predator, or even a hostile human.

If a group of circling and cawing crows suddenly hides in the trees and grows completely silent, then they may have been warning other birds in the region regarding some danger. 

4. Communal Roosting Spots

Crows live in nuclear families that are part of a large Crow Tribe consisting of thousands of birds.

These birds roost together to increase their chances of survival. 

If crows are cawing and circling around trees, they may be inspecting the best roosting spot in a neighborhood.

5. Migration

Crows take ‘Winter is Coming’ way too seriously.

This means, they migrate around fall into warmer regions.

So, if there are hundreds of crows circling and cawing, then they may have just been migrating through the region.

Now, some people consider crows cawing and circling a harbinger of illness or death.

So, let’s address this issue:

Why Crow Circling And Cawing Is Considered a Bad Omen?

It’s kind of a historical bias.

You must understand that crows are omnivorous scavengers that will never pass up an opportunity to eat fresh meat.

Since there were too many battles in the past, the blood and meat were always plentiful. 

Anyone writing about Brutality of War described dead bodies circled by crows and vultures.

Which means, all the historical records associated crows with death, making their tidy black appearance a sinister identity. 

Perhaps, the poetic term “a Murder of Crows”, for a group of crows started with such accounts.

However, Crow expert Kevin McGowen emphasized on his website that all scientists should preferably call a group of crows a flock, not a murder. 

Anyways, you may be more interested in finding:

What Does It Mean If Crows Are Circling Your House?

Well, it does suggest the presence of thermal around your place.

Now, crows live in tall trees and have all their needs met near the ground.

They don’t fly beyond 1000 feet from sea level and don’t really need to ride the thermals – the rising air currents produced by uneven heating of earth crust.

Still, their broad wingspans allow them to mount on thermals and fly at great heights.

Normally they just circle within thermals, reach a certain height, and glide to another thermal.

This conserves their energy during migration.

But if they are circling a specific place for hours, in this case, your house, then it may involve the following reasons:

1. Nesting Spots 

If spring is approaching, then crows will be entering their breeding cycle.

In such cases, the prospective crow parents split from their large tribe and look for prime nesting spots. 

Are there tall trees and enough water reserves around your place?

If so, crows may be checking your place for nesting.

2. Standing Guard

Crows are family-oriented birds.

So much so, that previous brood stays with their parents and helps them build a nest.

Sometimes, these crows circle around the nest to stand as sentinels to their parents and younger siblings.

3. Food Resources

Crows love a regular and easy supply of food so, they may be circling around your house because it provides such a food source.

Say:

  1. Are there bird feeders?
  2. Is your lawn infested with grubs or other bugs?
  3. Do you have vegetables growing in the yard?
  4. Are your trash cans filled with food waste?

4. Curiosity

Like other intelligent creatures, crows also do pointless things to satisfy their curiosity. 

However, they are clever enough to understand that curiosity has a price.

Which is why they are always cautious.

They may be circling around your place to inspect you or some interesting object around you.

That said if crows are barely circling but sitting around making lots of noise, they may be communicating something urgent. 

This leads me to my next point..

What Does it Mean When Crows Make a Lot of Noise?

It’s a prelude announcing, ‘the White Walkers are Coming’.

Kidding. 

Well, a crow making a lot of noise can be anything from some food reserve to a fallen crow baby or an approaching threat.

So, ornithologists suggest the following reasons behind crows making excessive noise:

1. Information Exchange

Most crows forage in the same directions but meet other crows at specific places at rather regular times.

They then exchange information regarding new resources, better housing, and even novel threats.

Crows have also demonstrated the ability to teach new techniques to their fellow birds.

2. Bullying And Mobbing

Crows are the Bullies of the Avian World. 

They leave no opportunity to mock other birds, especially their predators.

In fact, they are often the initiators of mobbing out raptors and other animals. (why do crows attack eagles?

If a few crows are making repeated calls, they may be bullying or starting a mob.

3. Litmus Test for Threats

Sometimes crows intentionally make raucous sounds in a relatively new neighborhood to test if there are any threats present in the region.

4. Call For Pillaging

Though crows share food with their fellows, that doesn’t mean they have table manners. 

So, a typical crow feast involves lots of noise, fighting for the freshest meaty portions, the biggest chunks of fleshy fruits, or the crispiest french fry.

Sometimes crows caw to call their fellows to assist them in stealing food from some predator.

5. Communal Calls

Communal roosts require hundreds of crows to gather and arrange themselves in trees.

The crows on the peripheries stand as sentinels to others. 

Crows become noisy around evenings as they are calling out to each other.

So, if crows become noisy around dusk and gradually grow into an eerie silence, then you may have been listening to their communal calls.

You may find this article I wrote interesting so do check it out! – Why do crows make noise at night?

6. Mating Calls

Despite their raucous sounds, crows are categorized as songbirds.

Male crows sing and boast their dominance by a range of sounds to impress their mates.

Obviously, that sounds like a loud and noisy “caw, caw” to us.

Anyways, once a crow does find a partner, it sings in its softest cooing voice.

Again, that’s not the kind of melody that will soothe you, but it’s certainly not that noisy. 

Related article – Can crows talk?

7. Fallen Babies And Funerals

Crows are extremely cautious regarding their babies.

Sometimes a crow baby falls down or becomes prey to some raptor.

This instigates crows to make a lot of noise.

Crows also gather around their dead fellows in some sort of funeral.

While this seems like grieving, crows may be doing so to question: 

“What killed this crow and how can I avoid this fate?”

Now, we have discussed the most plausible reasons behind crows circling, cawing or doing both. (See figure 1 for Summary).

crows cawing and circling

Figure 1: Representing the Most Common Reasons Why Crows Caw and circle, or do both simultaneously. 

That aside, sometimes the noise is directed at some human as if crows are scolding him/her. 

Perhaps, a human tried to hit crows or he/she resembles someone who did so. 

If that’s you, then I would like to discuss a single issue:

Did You Witness a Crow Dead Body, or Worse, Tried to Throw it Away?

If so, maybe these crows saw you around the dead body and assumed you killed their fellow.

Now, if you wish to dispose of a dead crow body, I recommend calling in local wildlife services to check if they have some policies.

But if you must do so on your own, then:

  1. Don’t come near the crow until it gets dark outside.
  2. Wear gloves and a face mask. It’s best if you cover your face beyond recognition.
  3. Wrap the crow in a plastic bag.
  4. Then, put it deep within the trash can.

This way no crow will see you doing that. 

But if you have already done such a thing in broad daylight, then crows may already be hostile towards you.

In such a case, you may need a crows forgiveness.

I recommend serving meat and pet food every day as a peace offering.

You will definitely find this article interesting if this is the case – How to befriend a crow?

But if this continues, call in your local wildlife services.

Related article – Do crows attack humans?

Tips On How To Get Rid Of Crows Circling Your House

Here is a list of techniques that you can employ:

Suggestion Methods Underlying Mechanism Remarks
Reduce Food Sources Removing Bird Feeders  Crows are regulars at bird feeders, so removing a bird feeder may stop them from coming. Removing bird feeders will reduce all backyard birds. An alternative is using bird feeders that exclude large birds.
Securing Trash Crows scavenge for food waste in trash cans. If the trash gets knocked over at night, then maybe some other animals like raccoons and stray dogs are involved.
Feeding Pets Inside Even pet food crumbs can attract the crows.
Control Pests A single crow family can eat up to 40,000 grubs during the breeding season.

And so, they frequently visit lawns infested with pests.

Seek professional advice as chemicals can be harmful to your family or pets. 
Remove birdbaths and water containers Crows frequently require water. So, removing this will stop them.
Protect and Cover Your Place Use fish line fences Crows cannot sit on narrow wires.
Use orange netting. Reduces crows by hindering their entrance to your lawn.
Cover seedlings, bushes, and other plants. Crows eat everything, even small seedlings.
Cover compost. Try to compost only the garden waste and not food scrapes.
Make Your Place Uncomfortable for Crows Install Anti-Roosting Spikes or gel on rooflines and fences. Since crows have large feet. Therefore, they require wide perches. May not work if spikes are put more than 2.5 inches apart.
Noise Radio, windchimes, and grinding sounds may cause crows to leave a place. May cause noise in the neighborhood.

Also, ultrasonic crow repellents don’t work.

Install a motion-sensor water sprinkler This will shock the crows into avoiding your yard. Eventually, crows will get used to water sprinklers.
Reduce nesting places Remove nesting materials and prune down dry branches around your place. This will only work if the crows have not yet laid eggs.
Hang swirling shiny tape or objects like aluminum foil balls. Generally, birds don’t like unknown shiny things. Some birders suggest that shiny objects made their place attractive for crows. 

Therefore, I discourage this method. 

Use bird repellent Laser lights or reduce outdoor lighting. This makes crows uncomfortable. I suggest only switching off outdoor lights instead of buying laser ones.
Make You place a bit scary for Crows Hang a dead crow dummy upside down The idea is extremely upsetting for crows.
Put life-sized owl or snake dummies Effigies do work if you keep changing their position. However, crows can still figure out these are harmless.
Turn on crow distress calls or predator calls. Both of these are extreme measures but work only outside the breeding season.
Adopt a predator Getting a large dog or a cat might reduce crows. 

Other suggestions:

  1. Don’t shoot any crow as it may not only bring you crow aggression, but it may as well be illegal in your area. D0 remember crows don’t forget any insult or slight.
  2. Use multiple techniques if the crows have been living in your region for years.
  3. Employ these methods in early fall to stop migrating crows from settling in.

Related article – How to stop crows pecking at windows?

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