Corvus is a widely distributed genus of birds in the family Corvidae. Ranging in size from the relatively small pigeon-size jackdaws (Eurasian and Daurian) to the common raven of the Holarctic region and thick-billed raven of the highlands of Ethiopia, the 40 or so members of this genus occur on all temperate continents except South America, and several islands. In Europe, the word “crow” is used to refer to the carrion crow or the hooded crow, while in North America it is used for the American crow or the northwestern crow.
The crow genus makes up a third of the species in the Corvidae family. The members appear to have evolved in Asia from the corvid stock, which had evolved in Australia. The collective name for a group of crows is a flock or a murder.
Recent research has found some crow species capable of not only tool use but also tool construction. Crows are now considered to be among the world’s most intelligent animals with an encephalization quotient approaching that of some apes.
In medieval times, the crow was thought to live an abnormally long life. They were also thought to be monogamous throughout their long lives. It was thought that the crow could predict the future, in that it was thought to predict rain and reveal ambushes. Crows were also thought to lead flocks of storks while they crossed the sea to Asia
North American urban crow history
Crows are found in major cities across the world, and there has been a major increase in the number of crows in urban settings since the 1900s. Historical records suggest that the population of American crows found in North America has been growing steadily since the introduction of European colonization, and spread east to west with the opening of the frontier. Crows were uncommon in the Pacific Northwest in the 1900s, except in riparian habitats. Populations in the west increased substantially from the late 1800s to mid 1900s. Crows spread along with agriculture and urbanization into the western part of North America.
Evolutionary history and systematic
The members of the Corvus genus are believed to have evolved in central Asia and radiated out into North America, Africa, Europe, and Australia. The latest evidence regarding the evolution indicates descent within the Australasian family Corvidae. However, the branch that would produce the modern groups such as jays, magpies and large predominantly black Corvus had left Australasia and were concentrated in Asia by the time the Corvus evolved. Corvus has since re-entered Australia (relatively recently) and produced five species with one recognized sub-species. The genus was originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. The name is derived from the Latin corvus meaning “raven”. The type species is the common raven (Corvus corax); others named in the same work include the carrion crow (C. corone), the hooded crow (C. cornix), the rook (C. frugilegus), and the jackdaw (C. monedula). The genus was originally broader, as the magpie was designated C. pica before being moved later into a genus of its own. There are now considered to be at least 42 extant species in this genus, and at least 14 extinct species have been described.
There is not a good systematic approach to the genus at present. In general, it is assumed that the species from a geographical area are more closely related to each other than to other lineages, but this is not necessarily correct. For example, while members of the Carrion/Collared/house crow complex are certainly closely related, the situation is not at all clear regarding the Australian/Melanesian species. Furthermore, as many species are similar in appearance, determining actual range and characteristics can be very difficult, such as in Australia where the five (possibly six) species are almost identical in appearance.