Crows are highly intelligent birds that have a complex social structure and advanced communication abilities. While they may seem aloof or wary around humans, crows are capable of forming bonds and showing affection to people who feed them regularly or help care for their young.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Crows show affection to humans in several ways like approaching them closely, leaving gifts, mimicking human voices, responding to their names, and even defending familiar humans from potential threats.

In this in-depth 3000 word article, we will explore the fascinating ways that crows display affectionate behavior towards humans they have built relationships with. We’ll look at how crows identify individual people, the gift-giving habits crows demonstrate, how crows vocalize and call out to humans, and how crows loyally defend their human companions.

With amazing examples and scientific studies backing up these remarkable crow behaviors, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the depth of emotion these birds can develop towards humans.

Crows Recognize and Remember Individual Humans

Crows can distinguish between individual human faces

Recent research has shown that crows possess the remarkable ability to recognize individual human faces. In controlled experiments, crows were able to correctly identify people who had previously threatened or harmed them, even years after the initial interaction.

This shows that crows can form lasting memories of specific human faces.

Scientists tested this by having volunteers wear masks and either feed or threaten wild crows. Incredibly, when the same volunteers returned weeks later wearing the masks, the crows would swoop down and scold people who had previously scared them, while ignoring or even approaching friendly people.

The crows seemed able to instantly recognize who was a friend and who was a foe based solely on their faces.

Crows hold grudges against specific humans who have posed threats

Not only can crows recognize individual humans, but they also seem to hold grudges against specific people who have threatened or harmed them in the past. Researchers found that wild crows can remember dangerous humans and will subsequently mob, dive-bomb, and screech at those individuals for years after the initial encounter.

In one remarkable example, local crows in Seattle would relentlessly attack a particular mask-wearing scientist whenever he walked through the neighborhood, even though he had not worn the offending mask in over 7 years!

The crows somehow passed down knowledge of this “dangerous” human across generations, resulting in new crows who had never even seen the man before also mobbing him on sight.

Crows pass down knowledge of human identities across generations

The ability of crows to recognize individual humans relies on more than just simple facial recognition. Studies show that crows actually pass down knowledge of human identities to their offspring and other members of their murder (group).

Even crows who have never encountered a particular human before will immediately mob that person if their fellow crows warn them of past dangers.

Researchers discovered this cultural memory of dangerous humans in crows by testing their reactions to volunteers over several generations. In almost every case, crows who had never seen the threatening masks before would automatically dive-bomb and scold the volunteers, seemingly informed by older birds of their notorious status.

This cultural knowledge passed down through generations allows entire crow populations to remember dangerous humans.

Crows Give Gifts to Humans They Have Bonded With

Stories of crows leaving gifts for kind humans

There are many heartwarming stories of crows bestowing gifts upon humans who have shown them kindness or formed bonds with them. One renowned case is that of Gabi Mann in Seattle, who has received numerous gifts like pebbles, buttons, paperclips, earrings, and Lego pieces from crows she regularly feeds in her garden.

The crows even bring Gabi shiny trinkets on her birthday!

Similar crow gift exchanges have been documented across the world. An 8-year-old girl in Britain found tiny presents lined up neatly outside her bedroom window each morning, apparently left by crows as a sign of affection after she regularly left out food for them.

A man in France received various nuts and bolts from a crow couple he had rescued from the streets years earlier. These stories show that crows remember acts of kindness and choose to reciprocate in their own way.

The types of gifts crows offer humans

Crows have brought all kinds of random trinkets and curios as gifts for the humans they bond with – including screws, paper clips, ring pulls, beads, buttons, pebbles, nuts, bolts, twigs, glass, nice stones, pieces of plastic, jewelry etc. Shiny objects seem to be their favorites to pick up.

The randomness and oddity of these crow gifts only adds to their charm!

Gift items Examples
Shiny objects Foil wrappers, earrings, pieces of glass
Small metal pieces Nuts, bolts, paper clips, ring pulls
Natural items Pebbles, twigs, leaves
Plastic bits Lego bricks, beads, buttons

According to Seattle resident Gabi Mann, the most valuable gift she received from her crow friends was a pearl-colored heart gem that she ended up turning into a necklace!

Why crows engage in gift-giving behavior with humans

Ornithologists believe crows give tokens of affection expecting nothing in return simply because they can form emotional bonds and wish to express gratitude like humans. Studies show that apart from great memory, they have advanced reasoning skills and feel emotions intensely.

Crows are also highly intelligent – their brain-to-body mass ratio rivals great apes and their intellectual capacity is likened to a 7-year-old! This advanced cognition may factor into their gift-exchange habits as well apart from emotional reasons.

It seems that over time, they come to see specific humans as part of their social circle or sort of extended family.

According to John Marzluff, Wildlife Science Professor at the University of Washington, crows can recognize faces extremely well and warn others of threats. They stand to benefit in gifts of food, but trinkets are given purely out of bonding or goodwill.

Next time a crow leaves a surprise gift near your home or workplace, remember – you may just have made a new avian friend for life!

Crows Verbally Communicate with Familiar Humans

Crows mimic human speech and sounds

Research has shown that crows are capable of mimicking human speech and sounds. In captivity, crows can learn to produce a wide variety of words and phrases. They have vocal organs similar to parrots that allow them to imitate novel sounds they hear.

Wild crows have been documented mimicking human voices, car alarms, barking dogs, and other urban noises. Some believe they engage in vocal mimicry as a social interaction with humans with whom they are familiar and comfortable.

The blue jay, a corvid cousin of crows, is also adept at mimicking calls and sounds. Amazing videos on YouTube capture pet crows saying “hello”, “bye bye” and even singing songs!

Crows respond when a familiar human calls their name

Studies have demonstrated that wild crows can recognize individual human faces and appear to respond when a familiar person calls their name. Researchers in Seattle conducted an experiment where they raised wild crow hatchlings in captivity and gave them names.

When released back into the wild, the crows responded and flew closer when the familiar researchers called them by name. This suggests crows have impressive memories for human faces and vocalizations. Some researchers hypothesize that wild city crows may listen to humans speak each other’s names, allowing them to learn names as well.

Crows have also been documented scolding or dive-bombing particular people they may view as threatening, indicating advanced human recognition abilities.

The meaning behind different crow calls made to humans

Crows utilize a wide range of vocalizations to communicate with each other, including caws, rattles, coos, and clicks. Researchers are still working to decode the complex language of crows. However, some patterns have emerged in the calls crows direct toward familiar humans that suggest particular meanings:

  • Short, quick caws – Greeting call to a known human friend
  • Soft, staccato caws – Food begging calls to elicit treats
  • Harsh, elongated caw – Warning or alarm call signalling danger
  • Deep, guttural rattles – Territorial warnings to scare off intruders

Understanding the variety of crow vocalizations and their context helps bird enthusiasts build better relationships with their neighborhood crows!

Crows Defend and Warn Humans They Share Close Bonds With

Crows mob predators and threats to protect their human companions

Crows have been known to fearlessly attack much larger predators, even dogs, foxes and hawks, when they perceive a threat to their human friend. Their aggressive mobbing, while noisy and intimidating, serves to harass intruders and chase them away from their bonded human’s home or neighborhood.

There are amazing stories of crows repeatedly dive-bombing people who had done their human friend wrong, sometimes drawing blood in an effort to protect their beloved companion.

In one incredible case in Vancouver, Canada, a young girl made friends with the crows in her neighborhood by regularly feeding them. The crows became very attached to her and even started bringing the girl small gifts in return.

However, when the girl was being bullied at school, the crows began relentlessly attacking her tormentors by pecking and clawing the bullies’ heads whenever they appeared near the girl’s home or walked to school with her. Thanks to her vigilant crow protectors, the bullies eventually left her alone.

Crows alert bonded humans to danger with warning calls

Studies have shown that crows make distinct alarm calls for different threatening predators and situations, such as a warning call for cats versus an alert for approaching cars. Crows only give these warning calls for people they share a bond with, signaling the human friend to be cautious or seek safety from a perceived danger in the area.

There are inspiring anecdotes of pet crows sounding the alarm for household fires or intruders, giving their human families precious extra moments to escape or prepare. In one remarkable case, a pet crow’s incessant warning cries alerted his human owner to check the stove where he had left a pot boiling, preventing a potentially deadly fire.

The crow had recognized the danger well before the smoke alarm would have sounded.

Remarkable stories of crows protecting humans

Over the years there have been many news stories documenting how crows have protected their favorite humans from harm. Some of the more amazing cases include:

  • A young boy was being stalked by a dangerous predator when a murder of crows began dive-bombing the creep until police arrived.
  • An elderly man fell down while feeding his pet crows and broke his leg. The crows raised a ruckus until a passerby noticed and called for help.
  • A woman was being harassed by an aggressive dog when her pet crow friend began furiously attacking the dog, fighting it off while she escaped to safety.

These remarkable anecdotes show the caring bonds that can form between crows and humans over time. While still wild birds at heart, crows appear to sense when their special human friend needs protection and boldly come to the rescue, undeterred by size or danger.

Their loyalty and protectiveness leaves no doubt that crows can form deep affectionate bonds with humans that strongly resemble the devotion seen between human friends.


As highly social, intelligent creatures, crows have an amazing capacity to form interspecies bonds with human beings who show them consistent kindness and care. While crows tend to be wary of unknown humans, over time they open up and demonstrate remarkable affection, trust, and loyalty with their chosen people.

Through gift-giving, vocalization, friendship, and protection, crows find unique ways to strengthen their relationships with humans across generations. Their devotion and perceptive ways of expressing affection reveal the profound emotional depth these birds are capable of.

If you befriend a crow, they very well may surprise you with the loving behaviors they share for years to come!

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