Zandvlei Trust 

House Crows (Corvus splendens)

Steering Committee formed in the Western Cape November 2002.

A Steering Committee was formed to address the seriously escalating House Crow (Corvus splendens) population on the Cape Flats and South Peninsula. The Committee consists of City of Cape Town Nature Conservation, Western Cape Nature Conservation Board, the SPCA, the Fitzpatrick Institute and the Cape Bird Club Conservation Committee representatives.

History of House Crows in the Western Cape.

  • In 1977 there were about 300 House Crows in the Western Cape.

  • A student under Tony Williams (Cape Nature Conservation) made a study of the House Crows in Khayelitsha and at the Cape Town International Airport Industrial site in 1997.

  •  The Cape Bird Club funded part of this project.then.

  • It is estimated the present population has grown to about 5000. Recently observed as far south as Fish Hoek in the South Peninsula.

Description and habits.

  • They originate from India, Pakistan and Iran and have arrived in South Africa via ships.

  • Length about 43cm, weight 310 360g, Iris brown, bill, legs and feet black. Smaller than the Black Crow. Slender build mainly shiny black with a sooty grey breast, nape and mantle. Voice, a shrill kwaa, kwaa.

  • They forage on the ground, walk with a perky gait sometimes hopping. Flys straight, wingbeats slow and shallow, performs aerial manoeuvres.

  • They are omnivoorous; grain, fruit, nectar, birds fledglings and eggs, small mammals, lizards, fish, insects, crabs, carrion, scraps, offal.

  • They compete with local bird species by attacking the adults and destroying their nests and eating their eggs.

  • The nest consists of a large bowl of sticks with pieces of wire lined with plant material and animal fibres. Nests are often constructed in trees, on telephone poles and powerline poles.

  • They roost in huge flocks in trees outside of the breeding season.

Health risk.

  • House Crows are a good indicator, their presence means more uncovered edible rubbish lying around, therefore a social decline in health standards in the vacinity.

  • They spread human diseases such as salmonella, entramoeba and giardia by eating discarded food matter and then washing themselves and defecating in water used by humans.

  • They often congregate at open air abattoirs and food markets and areas where human rubbish is dumped.

  • The risk is even greater in informal settlements where sanitation facilitiess are non existant.

  • Like other birds introduced from overseas, the House Crow is also a potential carrier of infectious diseases which could decimate domestic and native bird populations.

  • It is regarded as an intelligent and active scavenger that stores food, sometimes in house roofs.

They can dominate the food chain to exclude all other indigenous species. Protecting the biodiversity of our indigenous species is very important to make sure our unique Cape Flats Fynbos remains for the future generations.


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