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Do crows regurgitate food to feed their chicks? Would the extinct Hawaiian crow also have done it?

Sent in by David Reamer, Colorado, USA

Yes, crows are one of the many birds that will regurgitate food for their chicks.

The diet of many members of the crow family is quite broad and can range from carrion, eggs, insects, small vertebrates and molluscs to vegetable matter and grain during winter. Having been fed regurgitated food for a short while, young crows are then fed worms and maggots by both parents before moving onto larger, meatier food.

As a family, crows are highly intelligent and opportunistic and can employ an arsenal of feeding and foraging strategies that can involve burying and caching food as well as dropping food with a hard shell from a height, so as to get to the contents.

Though some remain in captivity, the last two known wild Hawaiian crows, or 'Alala (their Hawaiian name), disappeared in 2002 and the species was confirmed as extinct in the wild in 2004.

A study conducted in 1979 in the Honaunau Forest Reserve showed that Hawaiian crows also regurgitate food for their young. The breeding season for Hawaiian crows stems from March to July and the female will potentially lay up to five eggs, only two of which would survive. Little is known about the ecology of this crow and its demise is likely to be a result of habitat change and fragmentation and illegal shooting.

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