Corvid populations are increasing worldwide in response to urbanization. We investigated the response of American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) to urbanization by (1) comparing rates of winter population change between urban and nonurban locations (using standard Christmas Bird Counts); (2) quantifying population size along a gradient of urbanization in western Washington; and (3) pooling studies from eastern (New York), midwestern (Wisconsin), and western North America (Washington and California) relating survivorship, reproduction, and space use to urbanization. American Crow populations tend to be densest and increasing most rapidly in urban areas of North America. This appears to be facilitated by small space needs of crows in urban relative to suburban, rural, and exurban areas. Crow survivorship is high across the urban gradient, but reproduction and hence population growth, peaks in suburban and rural settings. Local demographic considerations appear unable to account for changing winter crow populations. Rather, we hypothesize that urban crow populations may be increasing primarily as surplus crows from suburban and rural areas disperse into the city where anthropogenic food sources are easily located, rich, and concentrated.
Instead of "designing with nature," as Ian McHarg tried to teach us is essential, we are acting like our human creations can supplant the natural world.