Metal.
Image: Kaeli Swift

Nature is fucked. This we know. But crows, those harbingers of bad luck and death, are even more fucked than we realized. A researcher has discovered that crows engage in necrophilia, according to The Atlantic. In some cases, a crow will approach a bird corpse, caw at it, hump it, and then dismember its dead-ass body. Sometimes a living mate even joins in for an orgy of death.

This cheery little discovery came about when Kaeli Swift, a bird researcher at the University of Washington, was attempting to document crows’ funeral-like behavior, where they gather around the bodies of dead comrades. She and her team set up a camera and laid a dead female crow next to a tree—as one does. The Atlantic reports:

As if on cue, a male crow alighted on a nearby branch and gazed at the cadaver beneath it. Instead of cawing from afar, he flew down and approached the body. Swift wasn’t expecting that, and she certainly wasn’t expecting the male to then droop his wings, erect his tail, and strut in the way crows only do when they’re about to mate. And sure enough, the male mounted the dead female.

At that point, someone on her film crew earnestly asked “if the male was giving the female CPR.” Nope, just a bit of necrow-philia. The Atlantic continues:

Crows, like most birds, have no penises. Instead of penetrative sex, they simply bring vents beneath their tails into contact. To do this, a male needs to swivel his tail beneath a female’s, but since the dead crow was lying belly down, that was impossible. “It was like watching a kid standing on a piece of cardboard and trying to pick it up,” Swift says. “The male was thrashing about awkwardly.”

Crow fucking: so surprisingly relatable!

Swift was intrigued by this odd display and—obviously, of course—decided to investigate further because she is my new hero in life. She rounded up a bunch of dead crows and spent a whole lot of time wandering around residential neighborhoods looking for live test subjects. As she writes in a blog post, “I freaked out a lot of Seattle residents wondering why there was a woman with a camera, binoculars, and some dead animals loitering in front of their house for long periods of time.” The police were called multiple times.

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But Swift nonetheless managed to test the responses of hundreds of birds and found that crow necrophilia is a real, albeit rare, phenomenon. The live crows most often responded as if the dead crows posed a threat—by dive-bombing the bodies, for example. “But in 24 percent of the cases, something overwhelmed those instincts and the birds would touch, pull, drag, or peck at the corpses,” according to The Atlantic. “And in 4 percent of the cases, these encounters turned sexual.” We’re not talking neck-kissing and missionary, either. Sometimes “a crow would approach the dead crow while alarm calling, copulate with it, be joined in the sexual frenzy by its presumed mate, and then rip it into absolute shreds,” writes Swift.

Wherefore the violent dead-crow fucking? Swifts surmises that a minority of crows basically lose their shit during the breeding season. “A dead crow has some of the characteristics of food, an intruder, or a mate,” reports The Atlantic. “Faced with several possible conflicting responses, the crows choose all of them.”

Neat. Here’s a video of a necrophilic crow gang-bang.