If American crows frequent your backyard, chances are you have witnessed them dipping food into a birdbath.  Whenever we witness such behavior, we cannot help but wonder why a bird would go to the trouble of soaking a piece of food in water before gulping it down.

        The truth of the matter is we are not absolutely sure fully understand the reason behind this behavior or why they do not do it all of the time.  The most widely held theory is it is done to soften their food.  This theory explains why they might dunk a hard, dry chunk of dog food or stale bread in water.  However, for the life of me, I cannot see how this explanation explains why American crows also place dead animals such as birds and mice, animal bones, snails and even bits and pieces of roadkill in birdbaths. 

        Others suggest nesting crows dip bakery products and pet food in water prior to subsequently feeding them to their nestlings for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it makes the food more palatable for their young.  It is also is an easy way for adult birds to provide their youngsters with water.

        Regardless, it is always a good idea to clean a birdbath that has been used as a “dipping” station by crows.  Invariably, whenever crows are dipping their food in our birdbaths, it is very likely they are leaving behind bacteria and fungi that were clinging to the food.  These microorganisms could be harmful to the birds that will later use the water to bathe and drink.  


  1. A neighbor on NextDoor told me, when I was at my wits’ end yelling die crow die, that the male of the pair soaks the bread like whatever to use as a sponge to take to mom, sitting on nest, unable to go herself. It fits. This happens in breeding season every year and they do get very demanding.

    • Rachel,
      Thank you for the interesting story. I just discovered it while looking at old blogs. While nobody is sure why crows soak food in water, some suggest that feeding “soggy” bread or other food is used by crows to ensure the young receive enough water in their diet.


  2. It’s not just American crows! They do this in Scotland as well! I’m sure they do it all over the world! 🙂

    • Hamish,

      I cannot thank you enough for your post. If provides insight into bird behavior in other lands. I agree, I too suspect it is a universal behavior.


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