Pied Crow Corvus albus numbers are increasing in many parts of South Africa. Recent work at the Fitz suggests that the increase in Pied Crow numbers is a result of global warming and other anthropogenic factors, including the availability of nest sites on electrical infrastructure and increased food availability in urban areas and from road kills. In combination, these factors have seen the Pied Crow increase its abundance in some regions and expand its range locally. Our project investigates the expansion of this species, sometimes termed a ‘native invader’, and aims to understand what impacts these changes might have for biodiversity. Previous Fitz research has focused on quantifying predation on tortoises and avian nest predation. Our current research builds on that research, which suggested that crows may benefit from scavenging on the carcasses of road kills. We also work to gain a broad understanding of public perceptions on Pied Crows and their potential management.

As a generalist predator, Pied Crows may impose heavy predation pressure on a variety of prey species. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Pied Crows present a risk to threatened species, such as endangered breeding waders and range-restricted tortoises. Because they may prey on species that are important for processes like seed dispersal, increases in crow numbers may influence ecosystems, generally. Researchers and conservation organisations have begun drawing attention to the knowledge gap with regards to the ecological impacts of Pied Crows, emphasising the need for more studies. Indeed, there is little information about the basic life history of Pied Crows, which is an essential component for understanding the potential impacts of a predator. We aim to contribute to filling these knowledge gaps. .

Activities in 2023

  • Temitope Adelola conducted an online survey which aimed to understand perceptions of the South African public about Pied Crows, their abundance trends and potential impacts on biodiversity and livestock. The survey received almost 1 200 responses from every province in South Africa. This response was due partly to the incorporation of the Pied Crow in BirdLife South Africa’s ‘Birdle’ game which included a link to our questionnaire.


  • Temitope completed her analysis of Pied Crow abundance and breeding success in relation to roadkill abundance on tarred and gravel roads This work forms one of Temitope’s MSc chapters, which will be submitted in 2024.
  • Yusra Samsodien has been awarded a Joan Wrench Scholarship through SANBI. She will register for a MSc and work on Pied Crow ecology in early 2024. Part of her research will use SABAP2 data to explore how changes in Pied Crow populations have occurred over the last 15 years .

Impact of the project

This research aims to improve our understanding of the drivers of increasing Pied Crow abundances in certain regions of South Africa and determine the associated implications for conservation, and if so, what management actions might be most effective to deal with these concerns. .

Key co-supporters

Mastercard Foundation, BirdLife South Africa.

Research team 2023
A/Prof. Robert Thomson (FIAO, UCT) A/Prof. Arjun Amar (FIAO, UCT) Kyle Walker (FIAO, UCT) Rona van der Merwe

Student: Temitope Abisoye (MSc, UCT)