The House crow is a common member of the crow family originally from Asia but now in many regions of the world, shipping having assisted its arrival. It is relatively small and slim-bodied, with long legs and plumage that is mostly black or blackish-slate. ‘Shining raven’ is the meaning of its scientific name, referring to its glossy, jet-black feathers around the face, chin, crown, and throat. Males and females are similar in appearance. Juveniles have duller plumage which does not feature the adults’ glossy black sheen.
The House crow is widely distributed throughout southern Asia, from southern Iran through Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and into south-western China, southern Tibet, and central Thailand, as well as the Maldives. It has been introduced to places in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and several islands, such as Mauritius. A small population is established around St. Petersburg, Florida. It is typically a lowland species, found in both tropical and subtropical areas. Some, however, have been seen in Himalayan military bases. This bird is strongly associated with humans, living in cities, towns and villages. Interestingly, no populations are known to live in areas where there are no people.
A House crow is very intelligent and is always wary and alert, walking or hopping along while flicking its wings nervously. It is a diurnal, non-migratory, social species and gathers in noisy flocks and forms massive roosts. The flocks may consist of hundreds or thousands of birds, and this species will also gather with parakeets and mynahs in plantations and mangroves. House crows return to their foraging grounds just prior to dawn. It is a very noisy species, with a rather dry, flat, toneless call described as a ‘kaaan-kaaan’ or ‘kaa-kaao’. During social interactions they also make a wide range of softer, nasal calls.
House crows are omnivorous, eating rubbish, leftovers, debris, and sewage. They also eat lizards, fish, frogs, crabs, insects, nectar, fruits, the seeds of cereal, eggs, chicks and small mammals.
House crows are generally regarded as monogamous, forming long-term pair bonds. However many individuals seem to be somewhat polygynandrous (promiscuous), when both males and females have multiple mates. The breeding season varies depending on the location. In India it is from April to June, at the start of the wet season, while in East Africa it is between September and June. They are usually solitary nesters, and typically nest close to human habitation. Nests are often in trees, but their untidy nests are also found on ledges of buildings, street lamps and electricity pylons. 3 to 5 eggs are laid, very variable in shape and color, an average of 4 per clutch. A female may produce two clutches per breeding season. Incubation is for about 15-17 days, and is done by both parents, but at night it is mainly the female. Chicks stay in the nest for about 21 to 28 days, being tended to by both parents, on which they are dependent for several weeks more on leaving the nest.
House crows are abundant throughout their extremely large range, and are not considered as globally threatened. However, colonies of this species in many areas have reached pest proportions, have spread rapidly and are regarded as invasive. They cause economic damage by destroying crops and fruit and eating the eggs and chicks of domestic poultry. Singapore, Yemen and some islands have tried hard to control House crow populations, and have had mixed success. In Yemen in 1984–86, about 240,000 of these birds were killed during a control operation.
According to IUCN, House crow is very abundant and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. According to the Bird of India resource, the total number of House crows in India is around 34 million birds, including 19 100,000 or 19 million birds in urban areas and 15 000,000 or 15 million birds in rural areas. There are specific estimates of the species in the following areas: around 500,000 - 600,000 in the Mumbai city area; 133,000 con the Island of Singapore; and 5,500 on the Kharg Island in Iran. Overall, currently House crows are classified as Least Concern (LC) and their numbers today remain stable.