carrion crow n Cf carrion n Note: Literary and figurative uses of carrion crow apparently as an affective synonym for crow are not treated here; they probably derive from English usage, in which carrion crow distinguishes the Eurasian Corvus corone from other local crow species (OED2 carrion crow n. a. 1528→).
1 also rarely carriony crow (pronc sp kyarny crow): An American vulture (family Cathartidae), usu specifically the black vulture n. [This sense originated with English speakers in the Caribbean, and occurs also in the English of Jamaica and Guyana; it was borrowed by French speakers in the same region, whence LaFr carencro (also LA Creole carencro, calencro, Haitian Creole karanklou); the US use may be at least partly a reborrowing from LaFr. Originally, as still in LaFr, appar applied to all local vultures, but in US Engl chiefly used to distinguish the black vulture from the turkey vulture, locally often called simply buzzard.] chiefly S Atl, Inland Sth See Map Cf corn crow n
[1699 Dampier Voyages & Descriptions 2.67, [In the region of Campeche, Mexico:] Carrion Crows are blackish Fowls, about the bigness of Ravens; they have bald Heads, and reddish bald Necks like Turkeys. . . Some of the Carrion Crows are all over white, but their Feathers look as if they were sullied. . . The Logwood-Cutters call the white ones King Carrion Crows. [DARE Ed: These are the turkey vulture and the South and Central American king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa).] 1758 Le Page du Pratz Histoire Louisiane 2.111, Le Carancro est de la forme & de la grosseur d’un Dindon: sa tête est garnie de chair rouge, & son plumage est noir. . . Plusieurs tiennent que le Carancro est notre Vautour. [=The carancro is of the shape and size of a turkey; the skin of its head is red, and its feathers are black. . . Many hold that it is our vulture.]] 1791 Bartram Travels 152 FL, The other species [of vulture] . . is by the inhabitants called the carrion crow. . . His wings are not long and sharp pointed, but broad and round at their extremities. . . [T]he whole bird is of a sable or mourning colour; the head and neck down to the breast is bare of feathers, and the skin wrinkled, this unfeathered skin is of a deep livid purple, appearing black and thinly set with short black hair. 1806 (1905) Lewis Orig. Jrls. Lewis & Clark Exped. 4.81, Shannon & Labuishe brought me one of the large carrion Crow or Buzza[r]ds of the Columbia which they had wounded and taken alive. I b[e]leive this to be the largest bird of North America . . . between the extremities of the wings it measured 9 feet 2 inches. [DARE Ed: This is the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus).] 1834 Audubon Ornith. Biog. 2.47 SC, We the subscribers, having witnessed the experiments made on the habits of the Vultures of Carolina (Cathartes Aura and Cathartes Jota), commonly called Turkey Buzzard and Carrion Crow, feel assured that they devour fresh as well as putrid food of any kind, and that they are guided to their food altogether through their sense of sight, and not that of smell. 1858 Daily Morning News (Savannah GA) 5 June /3 cwFL, What is still more strange, the buzzards and carron crows have also disappeared. 1885 Canova Life in S. FL 79, We tramped through swamps and over hills, and we couldn’t shoot nothin’, not even a kyarn crow, nor a buzzard. 1908 DN 3.328 eAL, wGA, Kyarn-crow, kyarny-crow . . Carrion crow. 1909 S. Atl. Qrly. 8.45 [Gullah], Fly t’ru de yelement lak carrion crow! 1913 Auk 30.494 seGA, Catharista urubu. Black Vulture; ‘Carrion (Cyarn) Crow.’ . . It is frequently seen associating on the wing with the Turkey Buzzard. The natives report that the two species also roost together, and that when a quarrel takes place, the Carrion Crow is always the overlord. 1923 Tensas Gaz. (St. Joseph LA) 2 Nov 1/4, The following species of destructive birds may be killed at any time: Turkey buzzard, black vulture (carron crow) [etc]. 1947 Randolph Ozark Superstitions 246, To find a dead crow in the road is always lucky, but a dead “carr’n crow” is a sign of superlative good fortune. 1950 PADS 14.43 SC, Kyarn crow [kjɑnkro]. . . Carrion crow. 1957 Booster (Jonesville LA) 15 Feb 1/6, While hunting for the bee trees one day they saw some buzzards or carron-crows, either name you want to call them. 1964 PADS 42.14 csKY, The black vulture . . is regarded by some natives as merely the young of the turkey vulture; others call it a carrion [kjarn] crow. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. Q13, Names . . for the vulture) 30 Infs, chiefly Inland Sth, S Atl, Carrion crow; GA18, Black buzzard—same as carrion crow; MS60, Caian crow; LA7, Red-head carrion crow. 1969 DARE FW Addit seGA, Carrion crow [ˈkjɑrənˌkroᴜ] Black vulture, Coragyps atratus. 1974 Stuart News (FL) 5 Mar /3, We also have black vultures, a slightly smaller bird. The Crackers used to call them “Cairn Crows.” 1979 Charlotte Observer (NC) 13 Oct 10/2, Gladys West writes, “I was born and brought up in Dillon County, S.C. . . . A Buzzard was not a buzzard to my mother. A buzzard was a karn crow. . .” Well, I rejoiced over that one. A buzzard was a come-lately bird among my folks. Aunt Bird, who was the matriarch of our tribe, never knew one. “The carrion crows are a-goin’ to find this house,” she would say. 2003 Courier–Jrl. (Louisville KY) 28 Mar sec B 5/2, A naturalist with the Cleveland Metro Parks Department . . notes that turkey vultures are the primary vulture species seen in Northern Ohio. The black vulture, or “carrion crow” as it was known by some people in the old days, ranges further south.
2 The raven (Corvus corax).
1903 (1950) Austin Land of Little Rain 19 neCA, The least objectionable of the inland scavengers is the raven, frequenter of the desert ranges, the same called locally “carrion crow.”