View Full Version : The amazing intelligence of the crow

11-24-2018, 12:05 PM
Along with the great apes and the dolphins, they rank as the most intelligent animals, an example of parallel development of high intelligence, since they are not mammals. Quite interesting, isn't it?

Abstract rule neurons in the endbrain support intelligent behaviour in corvid songbirds
Nature Communications volume 4, Article number: 2878 (2013)

Despite the lack of a layered neocortex and fundamental differences in endbrain organization in birds compared with mammals, intelligent species evolved from both vertebrate classes. Among birds, corvids show exceptional cognitive flexibility. Here we explore the neuronal foundation of corvid cognition by recording single-unit activity from an association area known as the nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL) while carrion crows make flexible rule-guided decisions, a hallmark of executive control functions. The most prevalent activity in NCL represents the behavioural rules, while abstracting over sample images and sensory modalities of the rule cues. Rule coding is weaker in error trials, thus predicting the crows’ behavioural decisions. This suggests that the abstraction of general principles may be an important function of the NCL, mirroring the function of primate prefrontal cortex. These findings emphasize that intelligence in vertebrates does not necessarily rely on a neocortex but can be realized in endbrain circuitries that developed independently via convergent evolution.

Crows could be the key to understanding alien intelligence

Crows are among the planet's most intelligent animals, teaching their young to use tools for foraging and banding together to fight off intruders. Now, the first study of how abstract reasoning works in these birds' brains could shed light on how intelligence works in a truly alien, non-mammal brain.

We've studied brain structure pretty extensively in mammals from humans and apes to whales and mice. But German neuroscientists Lena Veit and Andreas Nieder are the first to watch what happens in crow brains as these birds worked their way through a series of brain-teasers. They actually wired the crows' brains up with electrodes, watching as individual neurons fired when the crows did a test that required abstract reasoning. What Veit and Nieder found reveals a lot about what intelligence looks like in a brain that's nothing like our own.

The Evolution of Intelligence

The crow, and some of its relatives in the corvid family (such as jays and magpies), are among the only intelligent species we've encountered outside the world of mammals. But their brains are utterly different from ours. The mammalian seat of reason is in our prefrontal cortex, a thin layer of nerve-riddled tissue on the outside of the front region of our brains. Birds have no prefrontal cortex (PFC). Instead, they have the nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL), which is located toward the middle of their brains. You can see the different regions in the image, below.

The thing that's really interesting about comparing bird and human intelligence is that we did not evolve from a common, intelligent ancestor. Our last common ancestor with birds lived during the Permian period, about 300 million years ago, before the age of dinosaurs. It probably looked like a cross between a reptile and a rodent, and was roughly the size of a big raccoon.

This ancestor's simple brain was ruled by instinct rather than higher-level cognition. Still, lurking inside its rather small skull was a brain part called the pallium, which over millions of years evolved into the PFC in mammals and the NCL in birds. That makes mammal and bird intelligence an excellent example of parallel evolution — both groups of animals developed intelligence independently of one another.

Despite all their differences, the PFC and NCL have a few features in common. Veit and Nieder write in Nature Communications that both regions are involved in "working memory, reversal learning and reward prediction." The areas also "share important properties such as dense innervation by dopaminergic fibres and connectivity patterns with multiple sensory input, limbic and motor output regions." What that means is that the NCL and PFC are both packed with neurons, or nerve cells, that respond to the crucial neurotransmitter dopamine. Its neurons are also connected to the parts of the brain that handle memory, emotion, and body movements. The PFC and NCL are brain command centers, synthesizing information from a vast array of inputs and outputs.

Testing Crows' Ability to Reason

Given that the NCL is the seat of crow intelligence, the researchers decided to see whether they could actually watch in real time as a crow figured out a puzzle. They used crows that had been raised in captivity, and trained to do a test kind of like the Sesame Street "which one doesn't belong?" quiz. The crows had to identify whether two images were different or the same.

First, the researchers put electrodes over the crows' NCL, to watch each neuron firing. Then they would present the crow with an image. Next, the crow would be prompted to choose an image that matched or didn't match that image (they had already been trained to do this with a sound or sign that either meant "match" or "don't match"). Finally, the crow would be presented with two images and have to choose the matching or not matching one.

This is a test that requires abstract reasoning, because the images change all the time and the crows have to apply the abstract idea of "match" or "not match" to a variety of inputs. In addition, this test reveals that the researchers defined intelligence as an ability to do abstract reasoning. Obviously there are many ways to define intelligence, and this is simply one way to do it.

What the researchers found was pretty amazing. They identified what they call "abstract rule neurons" which governed which answer the crows would give. Basically, the birds' brains assigned one rule (match) to one neuron, then the other rule (don't match) to another neuron. When the crows correctly matched an image, the match rule neuron would fire. When the crow gave an incorrect answer, or became confused, the abstract rule neuron fired only very weakly.

Veit and Nieder concluded that this was strong evidence that crows' brains have developed to handle abstract rules, which is why the birds are good at learning and responding to a variety of situations in a flexible way. They note that "the ability to guide behavior by general rules rather than by relying on fixed stimulus-response associations constitutes a survival advantage." This is the same survival advantage conferred on humans due to our intelligence. But our intelligence occupies a very different structure in our brains.

Alien Intelligence on Earth

What this experiment suggests is that two dramatically different species might have similar abstract reasoning abilities — even if their brains are completely unlike each other. If we imagine that intelligence can only dwell in a mammal-like brain, we may miss out on discovering smart life forms elsewhere. The crow brain may be the first truly alien intelligence we've been able to study.

The crow brain may also help us better understand what's required to build an artificial intelligence, too. We can look at what the crow and human brain share in common, and speculate about what it might take to create an intelligence that resides in a non-brain structure. As I mentioned earlier, both the PFC and NCL contain many neurons connected to other parts of the brain, and they work a lot with the neurotransmitter dopamine. These regions also appear to deal in abstract rules.

Most of all, we can find hope in the idea that intelligence isn't just a quirk of one type of brain. Many kinds of brains can become intelligent. We are not alone.
https://io9.gizmodo.com/crows-could-be-the-key-to-understanding-alien-intellige-1480720559?fbclid=IwAR0i4IeuMPy01nzdUs9kKZ0qegwR1m XWNNUf12jbjsRbkuGlOd3-hetd3c8


11-24-2018, 02:17 PM
My grandfather lived in a region with lots of crows and he was a small farmer and also hunted mainly for food, not sport.

When I would walk around his farm with him he would sometimes talk about the crows and how smart they were. He once pointed out two crows flying high up in the air, and said they were checking us out to see if we were hunting. He bent down and picked up a long stick and pointed it at the crows as if it were a rifle, and they both instantly wheeled around and took off as fast as they could fly.

Once a decade or so the crow population would get too large and they had to be culled. Sorry if that’s offensive; it sounds cruel but it was the local way of helping to keep down disease and maintaining balance, and they only did it out of necessity. But crows are smart enough to avoid most traps that humans will set for them.

It turns out that crows and owls instinctively hate each other; since owls are nocturnal they usually don’t cross paths but if they do, an owl will kill as many crows as it can but crows will gang up on an owl. So the locals would put an owl decoy in a tree right before dusk and when one or two crows would happen by they’d react like they were rival gang members that found another gang on their turf. After yelling insults for a few minutes, the crows would zip off and gather their friends and a whole flock of crows would soon be divebombing the tree trying to dislodge the owl so they could take it in the air. The local farmers would be under the tree and could then pick off as many crows as they felt necessary.

11-24-2018, 02:30 PM
Some interesting facts:

Proportionally, some of them can have even bigger brains than ours

Crows are so smart and so good at improvising that some zoologists admiringly call them "feathered apes." And yet, from a primate's perspective, crow brains might look puny. The New Caledonian crow, for example, has a brain that weighs just 0.26 ounces. But relative to its body size, that brain is huge, accounting for 2.7 percent of the bird's overall weight. By comparison, an adult human's three-pound brain represents 1.9 percent of their body weight.

Crows have regional dialects, and they can adapt and adjust to the different dialects

Apart from the famous caw, caw noise, crows emit a number of other sounds. Each one sends out a different message; for example, cawing can be used as a territorial warning—or a way for crows to signal their location to relatives. This avian language isn't homogeneous; two different populations of crows may have slight differences. As ornithologist John M. Marzluff and author Tony Angell noted in their 2005 book In the Company of Crows and Ravens, the calls these birds use "vary regionally, like human dialects that can vary from valley to valley." And there's more: If a crow changes its social group, the bird will try to fit in by talking like the popular guys. "When crows join a new flock," Marzluff and Angell wrote, "they learn the flock's dialect by mimicking the calls of dominant flock members."

Crows can read traffic lights

In Japan, carrion crows (Corvus corone) use cars like oversized kitchen appliances. The birds have learned to take walnuts—a favorite treat—over to road intersections, where they put the hard-shelled snacks down onto the pavement. The crow then waits for a passing vehicle to smash the nut, after which it will swoop down and eat the delicious interior. It's a risky trick, but the crows aren't usually run over because (unlike some people) they've figured out what traffic lights mean. Carrion crows wait until the light turns red before flying down to place the un-cracked nut on the road. The second the light goes green, the crow takes off to watch the nut get run over from afar; it will even wait for the next red to scoop up the nut's insides. This behavior isn't limited to just one corvid species: American crows have been observed doing the same thing in California.

Crows can make and use tools

Lots of non-human animals, including chimpanzees and orangutans, create useful implements which help them survive in the wild. The New Caledonian crow (Corvus moneduloides) is one of only two species on the planet that can craft its own hooks in the wild. The other is called Homo sapiens. The South Pacific avian uses the hooks—which are made from pliable twigs that the crows bend using their beaks and feet into a J-shape—to extract insects from tight crevices. Another surprising attribute is this species' weirdly shaped maw. Unlike virtually all other birds, the New Caledonian crow has a bill that does not curve downwards. For years, the quirk went unexplained, but scientists now think that the avian's unique beak evolved to help it grasp tools more easily, as well as to better see what the tool is doing. The New Caledonian crow isn't the only implement expert in the corvid family. In 2016, scientists at the University of St. Andrews demonstrated that the ultra-rare Hawaiian crow, or ‘Alalā (Corvus hawaiiensis), is similarly adept at using and modifying tools.

They can recognize your face and hold a grudge

You don't want a crow for an enemy. In 2011, a team from the University of Washington published a remarkable study about the brainpower of local crows. The researchers' goal was to figure out how well the birds could identify human faces. So—in the name of science—they went out and bought two Halloween masks: One resembled a caveman, the other looked like Dick Cheney. It was decided that the caveman getup would be used to threaten the birds, while the Cheney mask was relegated to control status. At the five sites, a scientist donned the caveman mask before catching and banding some wild crows. Getting trapped is never a fun experience, and upon their release, the ex-captives loudly "scolded" their assailant with a threatening caw. Seeing this, other birds who had been sitting nearby joined in the fray, swooping down to harass the neanderthalic visitor. Over a period of several years, both masks were regularly worn by team members on strolls through all five test spots. Without fail, the caveman mask was greeted by angry scolds and dive-bomb attacks from crows—including many who'd never been captured or banded—while the birds largely ignored the Dick Cheney mask. Amazingly, the caveman disguise continued to provoke a hostile response five years into the experiment—even though the team had stopped trapping crows after those first few site visits. And some of the birds who antagonized the mask-wearer weren't even alive back when the whole thing started. The younger crows couldn't possibly have seen the imitation caveman grab an acquaintance of theirs—but they scolded it anyway. Clearly, the grudge had been passed on; birds were still attacking the mask as recently as 2013. The moral of this story? Mind your manners around crows. Because if you mistreat them, they won't forget you and neither will their friends—or the next generation.

Older siblings can help their parents raise newborn chicks

Like a lot of intelligent animals, most crows are quite social. For instance, American crows spend most of the year living in pairs (they usually mate for life) or small family groups. During the winter months, they'll congregate with hundreds or even thousands of their peers to sleep together at night in a sprawling communal unit called a roost. Come nesting season, a mated pair of crows might be lucky enough to receive chick-rearing help. Juvenile birds are frequently seen defending their parents' nest from predators. Other services they can provide include bringing food to mom and dad, or feeding their younger siblings directly. One study found that 80 percent of American crow nests surveyed had a helping hand. And some birds become regular nest assistants, providing aid to their parents for over half a decade.

They too can delay gratification

A 2014 study shows that at least some corvids can resist the urge for instant gratification—if you make it worth their while. The research was led by University of Göttingen graduate student Friederike Hillemann, whose team assembled five common ravens and seven carrion crows. Through careful note-taking, the scientists figured out what the favorite meal items of all 12 animals were. Then the experiment began. With an outstretched hand, one of the researchers gave each of their birds a morsel of food. Then, the animals were shown a different piece of grub. The corvids were made to understand that if they liked the second option better, they could swap snacks—but only if they were willing to sit patiently for a certain period of time first. If a bird ate the original treat during that stretch, it forfeited the chance to trade it for a new one. Hillemann's results showed that the crows and ravens didn't mind waiting around for an improved snack option. As such, a bird with a piece of bread was content to sit quietly if it knew that some fried pork fat would eventually be gained in the trade-off. However, if that same bird's second choice was another piece of bread, sitting tight would be pointless. So understandably, corvids who were put in this kind of situation tended to go ahead and eat whatever they'd been given. Why wait for more of the same?

A few more facts:

People have always known that ravens are smart. That’s nothing new. But we are just beginning to discover exactly how smart these common scavengers really are. Ravens are now said to have “humanlike” intelligence, which is actually a big deal. The Corvidae family, of which ravens are a part, includes crows, magpies, jays, and jackdaws. This entire family of birds holds the prestigious title of being considered among the smartest birds in the world.A 2002 study in Science showed that a New Caledonian crow could bend a piece of wire into the shape of a hook so that it could retrieve food from a narrow space. Young children were presented the same puzzle and were unable to match the mental dexterity of our feathered friends.A study conducted by researchers in the biology department of a Moscow university proved that crows are capable of analogical reasoning after testing the birds with a series of flash cards in a matching game. When correct matches were made, the crows were rewarded with mealworms. Matching things is considered to be a higher-order reasoning process, and these birds already possessed the capacity without extensive training.[1]Ravens have been seen sliding on snow with makeshift sleds made of bark and examining human-made objects that they find. They’re creative and adaptable, and they’re disproving one hater at a time that “birdbrained” is not really an insult.

Though ravens may seem like they’re making a series of random “kraas,” their varied sounds are believed to contain meaning. In the wild, ravens communicate with each other through a wide range of vocalizations. They can express emotions such as tenderness, happiness, anger, and surprise.They can also alert each other to danger by clucking like hens and make trill sounds when ready for battle. They have a specific “haaa” sound that they use for meat. Within their own social groups, they have been shown to have their own dialects.In captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than a lot of parrots can. Human speech isn’t the only things these guys can imitate. Ravens can also replicate wolves (which comes in handy when trying to lure them to carcasses that the ravens can’t cut open on their own), other birds, garbage trucks, and toilet flushing.

Though a group of ravens is called an “unkindness,” ravens are actually highly empathic. A study published in PLOS One in 2010 found that ravens console the victim of an act of aggression.For two years, Orlaith Fraser and Thomas Bugnyar observed the behavior of 13 hand-reared ravens. During that time, they observed 152 fights. They categorized the ravens as aggressors, victims, and bystanders depending upon their role in the altercation.Ravens that spent the most time with the victims showed the greatest likelihood of engaging in consoling behavior, which includes beak-to-body touching, sitting close to the victim, and preening. Though not as likely to engage, bystanders at least took notice that the victim was in distress.Previously, we hadn’t given ravens credit for the higher thought processes associated with empathy. To display empathy, they must be able to comprehend the situation and then adjust their behavior toward the victim accordingly.[6]

The cunningness of ravens has long been incorporated into mythology and lore. Many Native American tribes believed the raven to be a trickster and even a shape-shifter.The raven’s non-secretive ways made it easy for the casual observer. The Sioux told of a white raven that would warn buffalo of nearby hunting parties, which would cause the buffalo to stampede. According to the legend, an angry shaman got fed up with the raven and tossed him into the fire, which caused his feathers to turn black.[9]Since scientists have been paying more attention to ravens, they have noticed some rather trickster-like behavior. A study by the University of Vermont showed that juvenile ravens will make a big fuss when feeding on a carcass to attract other juvenile ravens to join them. This helps to ensure their safety against adult crows and other scavengers. Ravens have also been observed pretending to hide food in one place before quietly hiding it in another to throw off other ravens.

Next time you contemplate chasing ravens from your yard, you may want to stop and rethink your strategy. Ravens, crows, and other corvids are not keen on forgiving or forgetting. Wildlife biologist John M. Marzluff put this idea to the test at the University of Washington campus in Seattle.Seven crows were tagged and released on the campus by researchers wearing masks. Dangerous (scary) and neutral masks were worn around campus to provoke a reaction from the birds. Sure enough, people wearing the “dangerous” masks were scolded by the crows by swooping and dive-bombing the masks.Keep in mind that the researchers weren’t messing with the birds at this point, just walking from one point on campus to another. Those birds were not having it with the scary masks, although the people who wore neutral masks were left alone.Over time, crows told their friends, who then told their friends. At one point while Dr. Marzluff was taking a stroll in his “dangerous” mask, 47 of the 53 crows he encountered were ready to throw down.Aesop had it all wrong. In his fable “The Fox and the Crow,” the unsuspecting corvid plays right into the fox’s silly game by dropping his food so the fox can take it. The fox leaves after some snide parting remarks about the crow’s intelligence.[10]Had this been real life, the fox would not have made off with the meal. Meanwhile, the bird surely would have held a grudge, dive-bombed the fox, and stolen his next meal with the aid of his equally angry crow gang.


Crows are extremely intelligent birds. They are known for their problem-solving skills and amazing communication skills. For example, when a crow encounters a mean human, it will teach other crows how to identify the human. In fact, research shows that crows don’t forget a face.

A group of crows is called a murder. When one crow dies, the murder will surround the deceased. This funeral isn’t just to mourn the dead, though. The crows gather together to find out what killed their member. Then, the murder of crows will band together and chase predators in a behavior called mobbing. With some crow species, the yearlings and non-mating adults live in a group called a roosting community.

11-24-2018, 08:18 PM
Since I was young, I've wanted a pet crow. I know they can be taught to speak.

If I ever come across a young one that has been abandoned (unlikely), I'll give it a try.

11-24-2018, 08:34 PM
Since I was young, I've wanted a pet crow. I know they can be taught to speak.

If I ever come across a young one that has been abandoned (unlikely), I'll give it a try.

I don’t know if I would want to have a pet that holds a grudge as well as crows do. One false move and you might find yourself getting dive bombed every time you walked to your car! Once he told his buddies what you’ve done. ;-)

Seriously though, I bet they would make a great pet!

11-24-2018, 08:51 PM
Here is the fascinating story of a guy in England who raised a crow:


Interestingly, they often played a prominent role in ancient mythology:

In Norse mythology, Huginn (from Old Norse "thought") and Muninn (Old Norse "memory" or "mind") are a pair of ravens that fly all over the world, Midgard, and bring information to the god Odin. [...] In the Poetic Edda, a disguised Odin expresses that he fears that they may not return from their daily flights. The Prose Edda explains that Odin is referred to as "raven-god" due to his association with Huginn and Muninn. In the Prose Edda and the Third Grammatical Treatise, the two ravens are described as perching on Odin's shoulders. Heimskringla details that Odin gave Huginn and Muninn the ability to speak.

Huginn and Muninn sit on Odin's shoulders in an illustration from an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript:

11-24-2018, 09:05 PM
They also played an important role among Native Americans:

Many people are under the mistaken impression that crows were viewed as harbingers of death in Native American cultures, but in fact, that is not true at all. We do not know of any Native American tribe in which crows were seen as omens of death. Indeed, just the opposite, seeing a crow was (and still is!) considered good luck by many tribes. It is true that crows will eat carrion, but so do many other animals not typically associated with the dead such as bald eagles, bears, etc. In Native American folklore, the intelligence of crows is usually portrayed as their most important feature. In some tribes, the crow is conflated with the raven, a larger cousin of the crow that shares many of the same characteristics. In other tribes, Crow and Raven are distinct mythological characters. Crows are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Crow Clans include the Chippewa (whose Crow Clan and its totem are called Aandeg), the Hopi (whose Crow Clan is called Angwusngyam or Ungwish-wungwa), the Menominee, the Caddo, the Tlingit, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.

On this story, they would warn Brother Buffalo so that it would not get hunted (as a matter of fact, they do it among themselves, and not only that, they have a partnership with wolves, and they communicate with them):

Brother Crow and Brother Buffalo

The crow was pure white in the beginning. He was the brother to the buffalo. The Shawnee needed the buffalo for food and skins but everytime the Shawnee would hunt the buffalo, the crow would warn him. The hunting party gathered around the campfire to prepare for the hunt. Cawanemua said,"We must do something about crow." "I will dress as a buffalo and when brother crow comes to warn the buffalo of our hunt, I will grab him." The next day, Cawanemua pulled the buffalo skin over him and joined the herd grazing near by. Sure enough, crow came warning the buffalo as the Shawnee hunters approached. Crow was crying,"Caw, Caw, hunters afar!" Cawanemau jumped up and caught crow by his legs and carried him back to the camp. That night, around the fire as the hunters discussed the fate of crow, Panseau , the smallest brave listened and watched crow. Some wanted to kill and eat crow, since they were very hungry and crow had spoiled the hunt by warning the buffalo. Others wanted to let crow go, thinking that he had learned his lesson and would not warn buffalo again. Cawanemau was getting more and more angry...he grabbed crow and threw him in the fire. Panseau seeing crow turning black from the fire and soot....grabbed him from the flames. Cawanemau was furious with Panseau. He yelled, "Crow deceives us, we are hungry and cold because he warns buffalo!!! Yet you save him from the flames!!" Panseau, in a small voice, quietly said, "Crow warns his brother. Just as I would warn you, my brother." Crow, who was shaken and blackened from the flames, heard Panseau. Everyone was very still, thinking about what Panseau the smallest brave had said. Crow spoke, " I am blackened for warning buffalo, who is my brother. I now say Shawnee is my brother also. I will never warn buffalo of your hunt and you, brother Shawnee, will remember to give thanks to buffalo for giving himself to you for food to fill your belly and skins to keep you warm. Cawanemau stood. "Crow is our brother. Buffalo is our brother also. We will only hunt buffalo when we need food and skins. We will remember to always give thanks. Brother crow will remain black, so he too can remember and remind us of his promise to never warn our brother buffalo." That my friends is how the crow became black.

Their partneship with wolves:

There’s no doubt that wolves possess the strength and savvy to hunt by themselves, but it is not the most efficient method for them thanks to their feathered friends. During a recent study, it was observed that within a minute of wolves dropping a moose, ravens were already on it. It is estimated that a pair of wolves will lose almost 40 percent of that moose to ravens. With six wolves, on the other hand, ravens are only able to make off with about 17 percent of it. Though ravens and wolves may seem like unlikely bedfellows, it is a mutually beneficial relationship even if it looks like wolves are getting the short end of the straw here. For ravens, it makes sense to follow wolves around and scavenge the remains of their kills. One raven can scavenge 1.8 kilograms (4 lb) in a day from a 450-kilogram (1,000 lb) moose. Now imagine what several ravens could do. Scientists believe that this is exactly why wolves hunt in packs. To pull their weight in this friendship, ravens lead wolves to animal carcasses that the ravens can’t eat because their beaks aren’t strong enough to break through the bodies of the dead animals. When wolves are preoccupied with their kill, ravens also alert them to suspicious sounds and potential danger.


As mentioned above, ravens have a pretty big beak, but some animal hides are too tough even for them to break open. Ravens have been observed to mimic a wolf howl to attract a wolf or two to the carcass to gain access to the protein locked within. These birds are a remarkable combination of intelligence and opportunism.

11-24-2018, 09:15 PM
^ By "crow" I was referring to "the crow family" (corvids), i.e, both crows and ravens, and other members of this family:

Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds that contains the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcrackers. In common English, they are known as the crow family, or, more technically, corvids. Over 120 species are described. The genus Corvus, including the jackdaws, crows, rooks, and ravens, makes up over a third of the entire family.

Corvids display remarkable intelligence for animals of their size and are among the most intelligent birds thus far studied. Specifically, members of the family have demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests (European magpies) and tool-making ability (e.g., crows and rooks), skills which until recently were thought to be possessed only by humans and a few other higher mammals. Their total brain-to-body mass ratio is equal to that of non-human great apes and cetaceans, and only slightly lower than that of humans.

11-25-2018, 01:39 PM
Here is the fascinating story of a guy in England who raised a crow:


. . .

Great story. Sad ending though.

If I ever get one, I'll make sure I don't leave him alone with too much food.

11-27-2018, 10:40 PM
In some steep-sided valleys in the Australian Alps in summer the birds on the sharp ridges are often crows rather than eagles.
They can appear at least as threatening as vultures, mainly because they are smarter.

Here in Brisbane we have many of a local species, the Torresian crow.
They have bigger beaks than most crows and appear to consider new situations before they try something.
We were being overrun by cane toads (we brought them in from Hawaii decades ago as a biological control that never worked and now they can get out of hand).
A few crows worked out that if they flipped the toads over, they could avoid the poison glands on the back of the toad and enjoy the tasty stomach region.
Toads proliferate in our steamy damp summer.
In winter the crows survive on many sources, but are very clever in scavenging discarded quantities from fast food outlets.
Including pulling containers out of various garbage bins.
Local stand-alone businesses have themselves adapted by finding crow-proof garbage bins.
Franchised businesses such as Kroc burgers and the Colonel seem unable to negotiate their way around central office's set bins which are often not crow proof.
And the Torresian crows are great improvisers of tool use.

Down in South Australia, which is more like the Mediterranean or California for climate, they have choughs.
Appropriately as a high proportion of early settlers came form Cornwall, where a different chough is familiar and appears on the county's coat of arms.
The South Australian ones were long represented in a greatly loved artwork installation at the major art gallery there.
Now gone in a recent reorganization.

As for swooping.
The local magpies never forget who they have swooped previously even if it is a year or two ago.
But repeated swooping takes a lot of energy, so unnecessary swooping reduces the number of viable offspring in the long term.
Magpies are smart enough not to swoop cars, buses and trucks, but cannot stop swooping individuals walking or on pushbikes or scooters.
Until they get to a point of temporary exhaustion.
Our local crows appear to avoid repeat swooping of people who they realize are not a threat - at least in my experience - although one swooping episode can be vigorous with several passes.

11-27-2018, 10:47 PM

12-07-2018, 10:39 PM
A nice video by David Attenborough, on how they have learnt to crack nuts, taking advantage of the fact that they know how to read traffic lights:


12-08-2018, 03:46 PM
A nice video by David Attenborough, on how they have learnt to crack nuts, taking advantage of the fact that they know how to read traffic lights:


Whoa! Amazing!

08-22-2019, 03:48 AM
Crows and magpies can also mimic human speech. There's a bunch of videos on YouTube showing this.

08-24-2019, 08:18 PM
Crows and magpies can also mimic human speech. There's a bunch of videos on YouTube showing this.

Indeed! ;)