Crows are among the hardiest of our planet’s birds. Most species of corvids, a group that includes choughs, jays, treepies, magpies and nutcrackers, are intelligent, adaptable and aggressive. They dominate their environment and make the most of available resources.
Of all corvids, crows are particularly fascinating. They are extremely vocal with a range of calls, and they are facile at employing cunning and opportunism to hunt and forage. They are mostly gregarious and take great advantage of strength in numbers. It is not uncommon to see crows using tools or mobbing birds much larger than themselves, such as eagles, into abandoning their kills. In most places they frequent, they are also numerous. In cities, garbage disposal in open landfills and streetside litters have kept crow numbers more than healthy. An overpopulation of crows is injurious to other species, particularly those birds that are vulnerable as prey species. The resulting ecological imbalance can be disastrous. In Singapore, crows are so hated that they are frequently culled.
So, then, can crows actually become extinct? That question has been answered. At least one species of crow is already extinct in the wild. The last wild ‘Alala or Hawaiian Crow (Corvus hawaiiensis) was recorded in 2002. A few individuals survive among captive populations and an optimistic reintroduction plan is underway. The species was once abundant in the montane habitats of the Hawaiian islands but disease, chiefly the West Nile Virus carried by migratory shorebirds and introduced species, is believed to have wiped them out. Shooting by farmers, predation and competition for habitat by introduced species had also contributed to its decline.
Image: Hawaiian Crow (Corvus hawaiiensis). Source: Wikipedia
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