The Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) is a crow (or Karasuçƒ in Japanese) specific to Southeast Asia, and most prevalent in Japan. They are slightly larger than the Carrion Crow, and are affectionately called Corvus Growus Biggust by some locals. The Corvus japonensis, or large billed crow, is just one of 11 subspecies of Corvus Macrorhynchos. Some of these subspecies are distinctive vocally, morphologically and genetically, leading to speculations that more than one species is involved and they may not all be ‘Jungle Crows’ at all!
The Jungle Crow’s feeding and nesting habits vary little from that of other Crows, with the exception of the Japanese variety which are notorious for scavenging. Their nesting habits are also much the same as their cousins, with the addition that they will sometimes end up with a Koel (a kind of Cuckoo) egg or two in their clutch.
Crows in Japan are regarded with mixed reaction. There is a large population of Corvid lovers – naturalists and spiritualists, but also a large number of haters. Tokyo’s governor Shintaro Ishihara created a “special commando” whose only purpose is “crow extermination”. This commando is starting to destroy nests and kill crows all around Tokyo in an effort to control their numbers. More recently a much kinder approach has been implemented to give 50.000 blue nets toTokyo’s citizens to cover their garbage bags when they put them outside their homes in the morning – the real source of the Crow population boom. In contrast, Jungle Crows in India are more revered than hated, as the crow is a sacred animal in the Hindu religion.
Jungle Crows in Japan are known best for their particular talent of cracking nuts, a behavior mimicked in other crows there. Researchers believe they probably noticed cars driving over nuts fallen from a walnut tree overhanging a road. The crows already knew about dropping clams high above the beaches to break them open, but found this did not work for walnuts because of the soft green outer shell. As shown in this BCC video, when the lights change, the birds hop in front of the cars and place walnuts, which they picked from the adjoining trees, on the road. After the lights turn green again, the birds fly away and vehicles drive over the nuts, cracking them open. Finally, when it’s time to cross again, the crows join the pedestrians and pick up their meal.If the cars miss the nuts, the birds sometimes hop back and put them somewhere else on the road. Or they sit on electricity wires and drop them in front of vehicles.
The Jungle Crow is best distinguished by the blue-violet sheen to its feathers, its large fat beak (making it almost appear like a very large jackdaw). In Japan, this species is larger than a Carrion Crow. Due to the size difference, Jungle Crows are sometimes referred to as Asian Ravens, although they do not really possess the characteristics that would qualify it as such, and further west (such as in India) Jungle Crows are much smaller and sleeker. Their call is reminiscent of the Common Crow with a slightly deeper pitch, and they have been documented as mimicking woodpecker knocking.
To view more incredible photos of Jungle Crows and other wildlife in Japan and India from Daniel Ruyle, click here
Stay tuned this month as we cover mythology and photography from India and Japan featuring this wonderful creature!