Communication and Perception
American Crows are highly vocal birds. Unlike most other songbirds, males and females have the same songs. They have a complex system of loud, harsh caws that are often uttered in repetitive rhythmic series. Shorter and sharper caws called "kos" are probably alarm or alert calls. Slightly longer caws are probably used in territorial defense, and patterns of repetition may be matched in what may be considered "countersinging," or exchanges between territorial neighbors. "Double caws," short caws repeated in stereotyped doublets, may serve as a call-to-arms vocalization, alerting family members to territorial intruders. Sometimes pairs or family members coordinate their cawing in a duet or chorus. Harsher cawing is used while mobbing potential predators.
People are less familiar with the large variety of softer calls crows can make. Melodic, highly variable coos accompanied by bowing postures are used among family members, possibly as greetings or other bonding signals. Coos of cage-mates become similar over time; this vocalization may therefore be the basis of the mimicry ability shown by pet crows. Crows also give several kinds of rattles.
Young crows make gargling sounds that eventually turn into adult vocalizations. Yearling crows also "ramble" or run through long sequences of different patterns and rhythms of cawing.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic