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Species Guide
A photo of a Cape Crow (Corvus capensis)
Cape Crow

Cape Crow

Corvus capensis

The Cape crow, or black crow (Corvus capensis), presents a striking figure, entirely cloaked in black with a subtle purple gloss adorning its plumage. Measuring 48–50 cm in length, it is marginally larger than the carrion crow. Its legs, wings, and tail are proportionately elongated, and it boasts a notably longer, slimmer bill, seemingly honed for probing the earth in search of invertebrates. The head feathers shimmer with a coppery-purple sheen, while the throat feathers are elongated and prone to fluffing during certain vocalizations and displays.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Cape crow, look for its complete black coloration with a purple gloss, especially noticeable on the head feathers. Its long legs and bill are distinctive features, as well as its longer wings and tail compared to similar species.


The Cape crow is a denizen of open grasslands, moorlands, and agricultural terrains, provided there are trees or woodlands nearby for nesting purposes. It appears to flourish particularly in areas modified for agriculture.


This species is found in two large, separate regions on the African continent. One population extends from the Cape at the southern tip of Africa northward to southern Angola and eastward to the coast of Mozambique. Another resides in central East Africa, spanning South Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Kenya. The northern population tends to be slightly smaller than its southern counterpart.


The Cape crow is known for its powerful downward stabs with its long bill as it forages for invertebrates. It also feeds on grain, seeds, maize kernels, bulbs, fleshy roots, frogs, small reptiles, fruits, and berries. It preys on the eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds and can even take down birds up to a pound in weight, including domestic poultry. It has been observed turning over the droppings of herbivorous mammals in search of insects.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the Cape crow includes a resonant "krrah…..krrah…..krrah" or a more rapid "kah-kah-kah." It is also capable of producing very loud, liquid bubbling sounds that travel great distances, as well as throaty chuckles. There is some evidence to suggest that the Cape crow may engage in vocal mimicry.


Nesting predominantly occurs in trees, typically near the summit, though on rare occasions, shrubs may be used. The usual clutch consists of three to four eggs, which are incubated for about 18–19 days. The young are ready to fledge around 38 days after hatching, with typically only three surviving to this stage.

Similar Species

While similar in appearance to the carrion crow, the Cape crow can be distinguished by its larger size, longer limbs, and more slender bill.

Diet and Feeding

The Cape crow's diet is varied, including grains, seeds, invertebrates, maize kernels, plant bulbs, roots, amphibians, reptiles, fruits, berries, and the eggs and young of other birds. It is adept at foraging, using its bill to probe and dig into the ground, and is known to investigate dung for insects.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Cape crow as Least Concern, indicating that it currently faces no significant threats to its survival.

Cape Crow Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Cape Crows on Birda


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