Many folks are not even aware that we have two species of crows in the southern piedmont during the breeding season. Both, the fish crow and American crow, are identical in all-black plumage. Fish crows run a little bit smaller, but I cannot tell them apart in the field based on plumage or structure alone. Their voices are very different however and are the basis for identifying which species you are seeing or hearing.
American crows give the familiar raucous, forceful “caw caw caw”; fish crows give a simple, laid back, nasal “car car”. While I kind of like the American crow call, I find the fish crow’s incessant, monotonous, grating, and annoying. I hear them all spring and summer at shopping centers and restaurants, begging for French fries and dumpster diving. Car-car, car-car, car-car, car-car. Ugh.
They give the other crows a bad reputation too. Fish crows are much more predatory than American crows. I’m sure Americans might take a songbird nestling occasionally, but a substantial percentage of a fish crow’s diet is nestling and fledgling songbirds. It is common to see a fish crow flying off with a young bird with the parents in hot but useless pursuit.
American crows occupy a rightful place in our local ecosystem. They fit in nicely. They can be noisy when flocks gang up on a red-tailed hawk or a great-horned owl, but the noise is usually short-lived. When they speak its because they have something to say. They get it said then quiet down. Though fish crows are native, when they arrive each spring their impact is almost like they are an invasive species. They are my least favorite native bird species. By far.
Crow final fun fact: Crows are not members of the blackbird family. They are corvids, a family that also includes our Common raven and blue jay.