The Cape crow is widespread and fairly common throughout the southern African region; the only all black crow that is native to the region. The sexes of these crows are alike in both size and plumage; being about 50 cm in length and with a purplish gloss to the all-black plumage. They have relatively slender black bills; black eyes and black legs and feet. They are usually found singly or in pairs, but may gather in groups when not breeding.
Cape crows are found in a variety of habitats, but prefer grassland and semi-arid areas. They are often found in farmlands and plantations. They are omnivorous and feed on a wide variety of items including spiders, lizards, insects, frogs, the eggs of tortoises and ground-nesting birds, and carrion from road-kill, as well as grain and other seeds and fruit.
The number and range of the various species of crows in southern Africa is slowly expanding as they are quite tolerant of humans and seem almost unaffected by the changing landscape. This may pose a threat to some of the local raptor species as they compete for much the same food sources.
The Cape crow’s loud “kraa, kraa” is distinctive cry, as is their liquid warbling and the variety of gurgling sounds that carry surprisingly far. They also have a talent for mimicry and many years ago the Queen’s Park Zoo in East London (in the eastern Cape of South Africa) was home to a Cape crow widely known as “Jimmy the Crow” and locally famous for its ability to talk. Its large vocabulary included a loudly shouted “Border!” in support of the local provincial rugby team! As children we visited Jimmy many times and have fond memories of his raucous call.
The Cape crow is monogamous and they build a large bowl-shaped nest of sticks placed high in a tree or on a telephone pole. The female lays a clutch of three or four eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 18 days. The nest may be parasitized by the Great spotted cuckoo (Clamator glandarius),
The scientific binomial for the Cape crow is Corvus capensis; Corvus from the Latin for “a raven or a crow”; and capensis from the Latin for “from the Cape (of Good Hope)”. Thus we have a crow from the Cape, and it couldn’t be clearer than that.