Little crow (Corvus bennetti)

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Little crow - walking on dust road
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • The little crow is the smallest crow species in Australia.
  • Although the little crow appears entirely black, the bases of its head and neck feathers are white and its flight feathers have slightly greyish undersides.
  • A highly sociable species, the little crow forms large flocks which can often be seen performing tumbling acrobatics in the air.
  • The little crow has a varied diet that includes insects, small vertebrates, seeds, fruit and carrion.
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Little crow fact file

Little crow description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyCorvidae
GenusCorvus (1)

A relatively small, slender corvid with short legs and a small bill (2), the little crow (Corvus bennetti) is the smallest of Australia’s crow species (3). The plumage of the little crow is entirely black with a purplish gloss, and the bases of the feathers on the head and neck are white (2) (3).

The little crow has white to bluish-white eyes and a black bill, which is shorter than the length of the head. The legs and feet are also black (2) (3). The little crow has a fairly domed head, short hackles on the throat, and appears quite compact and blunt-winged in flight (2). Its tail is slightly graduated at the tip (3).

The male and female little crow are similar in appearance (2) (3), although the male usually averages slightly larger than the female (3). Juvenile little crows are a duller black, lacking the glossy plumage of the adult, and their eyes are brown (2) (3), only becoming white at the end of the second year of life (3).

As well as by its small size, the little crow can be distinguished from most other Australian crow species by its two-toned underwing, with slightly greyish undersides to the flight feathers that contrast with the black of the rest of the wing (3).

The calls of the little crow include a series of quite deep, hoarse, nasal-sounding caws. This species also gives a rapid, high-pitched, three-note caw, as well as longer individual ‘aak’ notes, and sometimes low bubbling and croaking calls (2) (3).

Also known as
Bennett’s crow, small-billed crow.
Size
Length: 42 - 48 cm (2) (3)
Weight
282 - 525 g (2)
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Little crow biology

The little crow is a highly sociable species that often forms large flocks, sometimes numbering into the thousands (2) (3). This species is quite agile in flight, and flocks can sometimes be seen performing tumbling acrobatics in the air. The little crow can be rather bold around humans, even attacking human intruders during the breeding season (3).

An omnivorous species, the little crow feeds mainly on insects and other invertebrates, although it also takes small lizards, birds, eggs, mammals and frogs, and will also eat seeds, fruit and occasionally nectar. The little crow may scavenge on rubbish dumps and sometimes feeds on carrion (2) (3). Most foraging takes place on the ground in open habitats, but the little crow also takes food from vegetation, and often patrols roads, paddocks, rubbish dumps and towns in search of carrion and refuse (2).

The little crow is semi-nomadic, with adult breeding pairs only remaining resident in an area for the duration of the breeding cycle. After breeding, both young birds and adults form mobile flocks that congregate at food sources and may move over large distances, sometimes travelling to areas outside of the main breeding range (2) (3).

The breeding season of the little crow varies depending on the location, and breeding often occurs opportunistically after rainfall (2) (3). In southern Australia, breeding typically occurs from July to October, and sometimes from March to May, while in northern Australia it may occur from January to September (2). The little crow usually breeds in small, loose colonies (3).

The nest of the little crow is usually built in a tree, a shrub, an artificial structure such as a utility pole, or even occasionally on the ground. A bulky structure made of twigs, the nest is lined with bark, grass, feathers, wool or hair, and often has a layer of mud or clay beneath the lining (2) (3).

The little crow usually lays a clutch of 4 to 6 eggs (2) (3), which the female incubates for 16 to 18 days. Both adults feed the chicks, and the young birds leave the nest at around 29 to 31 days old. After remaining in the vicinity of the nest for a few days, the family leaves the nesting area and joins a flock. The little crow first breeds at around three years old (2).

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Little crow range

The little crow is widespread across western, southern and inland parts of Australia (2) (3) (4).

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Little crow habitat

An inhabitant of arid and semi-arid areas, the little crow can be found in a range of open, scrubby habitats, including open woodland, shrubland, pastoral land, farmland, and sometimes even open desert (2) (3). It typically occurs in woodlands that are dominated by eucalypts and acacias, and breeds only where surface water is available (2).

The little crow is often associated with human settlements, including large towns (3).

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Little crow status

The little crow is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Little crow threats

The little crow is widespread and abundant, and is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (4). The populations and range of this species are likely to have increased with the spread of agriculture and artificial water sources, and the little crow often benefits from artificial food sources, as well as being common in modified habitats (2). However, it is thought to be declining in some southern areas due to habitat clearance (2) (3) (4), which may have allowed populations of other corvid species to increase at the expense of the little crow (3).

Often considered a pest in orchards, farmland and sheep-rearing areas, the little crow lacks legal protection and is sometimes shot, trapped or poisoned as a result (2).

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Little crow conservation

The little crow occurs in many protected areas across its range (2). No other specific conservation measures are currently known to be in place for this common and widespread bird.

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Find out more

Find out more about the little crow and its conservation:

More information on conservation in Australia:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Carrion
The flesh of a dead animal.
Corvid
A member of the family Corvidae, which includes crows, jays, magpies, nutcrackers and rooks.
Flight feathers
The feathers at the end of the wing, involved in flight.
Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Nomadic
A species which roams irregularly from place to place in search of food and water, without returning to a fixed location.
Omnivorous
Feeding on both plants and animals.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2009) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-Shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Madge, S. and Burn, H. (1994) Crows and Jays: A Guide to the Crows, Jays and Magpies of the World. Christopher Helm, London.
  4. BirdLife International (September, 2012)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=5787
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Image credit

Little crow - walking on dust road  
Little crow - walking on dust road

© Don Hadden / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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