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Crows dropping walnuts on driveways

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 24 Feb 2014 at 03:13 PM

I like crows (Corvus corone), but when they drop walnuts right next to where I’m standing, which just miss landing on my head, it has to be said that my affection for them is somewhat diminished. Saying that, they have to make a living somehow and their chosen method for cracking walnut shells is straightforward and yields results for a minimum of effort– find a whole walnut, fly up to around 9m in height above a suitably hard surface and drop your nut. Hopefully, it will break open on impact and reveal the tasty flesh within and the crow will get to it before another crow sees and eats it up. 


The place where I see most walnut shells is a concrete driveway in a village, with the walnut tree itself being about 200m away. Because I’m generally looking down at a plant or the soil, I haven’t yet seen a crow drop a walnut, but have been there on several occasions when nuts have landed nearby. The householder sees it often and the driveway is littered with shells from the time that the nuts ripen in autumn until they’ve all been eaten some time in spring. Hazelnuts are also dropped here.

Looking into the habit of crows dropping nuts in order to crack them, it is a common practice. As you might expect, a study has been done to see what height the nuts are dropped from and the crack success rates of different surfaces.

Japanese crows have gone a step further and learned not only to drop them on roads, so the nuts are cracked by cars driving over them, but also to drop them on pedestrian crossings and they then run to retrieve the nut before the lights change and the traffic starts moving again.

Here at home, a regular sighting on a hot summer day is to see crows bringing slices of dry bread to the garden, which they then dunk into the water dishes to soften the bread. I don’t put bread out so they are clearly bringing it from another garden and one that doesn’t provide water.

Have you seen crows dropping nuts or bringing food into your garden? Are there other ways of getting at their food that you’ve observed? 


Phot's-Moll said:

The term 'bird brain' should be used as a compliment, I think.

on 24 Feb 2014 at 03:45 PM

sue1002 said:

I've often wondered which birds drop almost whole slices of white bread into my garden when I only put brown out.

on 24 Feb 2014 at 04:31 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Crows are really intelligent, Patsy. There's an amazing clip here of a crow solving an eight-stage test:

I had wondered that as well, Sue. Keep a watch, it would be so interesting to see it happen!

on 24 Feb 2014 at 05:05 PM

richardpeeej said:

I am sure that the crows love you looking after them so well Miranda. I save any fat from cooking and when cold, put that out in a solid lump on the bird table, sometimes I spread it on a crust of bread ( brown or white!) It is never there very long ;-)

on 24 Feb 2014 at 11:48 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

As in, 'You're wonderful, I'll drop walnuts on you', Richard? ;)

The birds get meat fat here too and they love it.

on 25 Feb 2014 at 09:12 AM