Many cultures consider crows as the ultimate death-detector; they always seem to arrive when something is dying. Still, crows don’t sense death, but their tendency to eat dead things, mourn their dead, and intelligence make it seem that way.
The incorrect notion that crows can sense death comes from the extenuating circumstances surrounding a crow’s existence and their interpretation in ancient cultures.
Consider the conception as a case of guilt by association.
Why Do People Believe Crows Sense Death? 5 Reasons Explained
Even in the modern world, crows get a bad rap. For thousands of years, crows and their cousin the raven represented or warned of death around the globe.
These beliefs have not faltered despite the advent of science. So why do humans believe crows can sense death? Are there any crows predators?
Reason # 1 – Crows Are Everywhere
It seems like crows always show up around dead animals. Shakespeare used them to foretell doom and death in his tragedies, and horror movies always show a crow in the cemetery. But, the truth is, it’s hard not to see a crow around.
Crows exist around the globe. From Europe to the Pacific Ocean, through Iran, Egypt, and the Americas, crows proliferate.
Furthermore, crows know they’ll find food near humans, so they tend to be around when humans die.
Considering these factors, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their sheer presence makes it easy for a crow to show up where something has died.
Reason # 2 – Crows Represent Death In Mythology
It’s hard to shake beliefs that have existed for generations. Cultures around the world have considered the crow harbingers or warnings of death for a thousand years.
In many cultures, including ancient Greek, Roman, Japanese beliefs, crows represent divine prophets or symbols of foresight. For example, the Greeks believed Apollo used ravens and crows to tell the future, including someone’s death.
In Viking myth, crows represented death and prophesy. They were the familiars of Odin, a god who told the future and was the god of war and death. Thus, the presence of crows on the battlefield warned of great death.
Irish clans believed similarly, worshipping the crow goddess the Morrigan and her sisters. When three crows circled a home, the Celts believed that death would come to that household.
Reason # 3 – Crows Hold Funerals
It’s hard not to believe crows sense death when they hold their own funerals. That’s right; crows have funerals for their dead. But, more creepily, they analyze the dead crow at the funeral.
Crows examine their dead brethren to understand why they died. They do this to discover threats in the area to avoid or defend against.
Reason # 4 – Crows Don’t Mind Eating Dead Things
Crows are carrion birds, meaning they don’t mind eating things that have died. They tend to scavenge, digging through the trash for food.
However, if they come across dead animals, they won’t say no to eating them.
Reason # 5 – Crows Are Smart
Part of why humans believe crows can sense death is their significant intelligence. Crows actually have the same brainpower as a chimpanzee!
Crows are good at figuring out patterns, and over their evolution, they have gotten good at noticing characteristics of sick and dying creatures.
So when crows see an animal limping, bleeding, or displaying other indications of illness, crows will follow them for an easy meal.
Another reason humans believe crows sense death is the phenomenon of anthropomorphism.
Crows have a way of studying animals and human actions and learning from them, similar to humans solving our problems.
Anthropomorphism occurs when humans assign their traits of intelligence or emotions to animals. We assume they have a human or superhuman intelligence regarding it.
Can Crows Really Sense Death?
Crows do not have a supernatural ability to sense death before it happens, or at least, there is no evidence indicating such.
But in many ways, crows can perceive the likelihood of death or arrive on the scene soon after a death occurs.
Crows Can Smell Death
Crows are carrion creatures. Like other carrion birds, including vultures and condors, crows likely smell dead flesh. There’s science behind this smelly-ability.
When bodies begin to rot, they produce chemicals like putrescine and cadaverine. Crows and other carrion creatures can smell these chemicals and will locate the source. Some wounds will produce these chemicals, leading crows to follow dying animals as well as ones already dead.
To put a long story short, the smell of rotting flesh acts as a dinner bell for crows. It’s not uncommon to find a group of crows feasting on a dead animal.
Crows Predict Death Through Observation
As previously mentioned, crows are intelligent. Their ability to detect patterns allows them to study their prey. In addition, crows are dedicated and patient; if they see a weak creature, they’ll follow it for days until it dies.
Once crows have the scent of a dying, bleeding, or rotting corpse, they’ll begin to assemble into a group waiting for their meal to die. Fittingly, this group carries the name of a murder of crows.
Crows Learn Places Where Easy Meals Exist
The crow’s intelligence plays a significant role in their ability to predict the location of likely deaths.
While crows cannot guess who will die in an area like a warzone or near a hospital, they can understand that death usually follows when large groups of humans gather on a field.
Over time, crows have gathered an internal list of where death tends to occur or where carrion tends to appear. This pattern has allowed crows to identify cemeteries, mass graves, and plague-riddled areas as locations for easy eating.
In short, the crow’s tendency to flock to areas where death occurs has led humans to believe they foresee deaths of individuals rather than acknowledge the crow’s intelligence and ability to identify patterns of illness and death.
Crows Are Death Detectors, Not Death Sensors
While crows don’t see future deaths, they can detect when something has or is dying. Their ability to detect patterns and observational skills allow them to guess when and where death is likely to happen, but they don’t have the innate ability to see who will die.