Sensing, processing, and responding to environmental cues is a fundamental process, particularly for avifauna. The degree to which signals are effectively responded to, determines an individual's and a species' ability to function and flourish in its habitat. The sensing of sight and sound are highly evolved environmental analysis tools of the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos). This study examined how crows respond to visual and auditory cues in urban and rural environments. Taxidermic models of a great-horned owl (Bubo virginianus) and a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), a recorded call of the great-horned owl, and a recorded crow mobbing call were used to test the mobbing response of local crows in several different locations. No significant difference was found in mobbing response between urban and rural environments. There was a significant difference in number of crows mobbing the two predator species. Results suggest that crows use sensory information differently; visual cues for predation avoidance and auditory cues for intraspecific communication. The results also suggest crows exhibit discretionary sensory processing and responses. This study provides insight to how a highly successful synanthropic species utilizes sensory information to thrive in natural and anthropogenic habitats.
Published in SUNY Plattsburgh's Scientia Discipulorum Journal of Undergraduate Research. Volume 6, issue 1, pages 42-55. 2013.