What do you know about crows?
Maybe you’ve heard some of the dark beliefs: that if you see a crow flapping its wings, it means a big accident is about to happen? Or that if a crow is sitting on top of a house with a red thread in its beak, you should summon the fire department, because the flames aren’t far behind?
Crows have also long been associated with death in many cultures, because they often could be found feeding on animal and human remains at battlefields or cemeteries.
On the other hand, many American Indian tribes saw the crow as a wise adviser and the spirit of wisdom and the law.
At the University of Seattle, a new study by artist Angell and biologist Marzluff has brought together some surprising information on these dark creatures.
From The New York Times:
• Crows and ravens work together. A pair of ravens at the North Cascades Institute learned to “herd” crossbills down a passageway between buildings. “Elvis, a male raven would … rush the crossbills down a corridor between buildings, and his mate would intercept their progress and turn them into the glass windows. Stunned crossbills littered the ground afterward until Elvis and his mate grabbed mouthfuls to eat and cache for later dinners, ” the authors write.
• Crows can tell time — if not by a watch, by other prompts. The authors write of a dozen wild crows at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo who followed a feeding ritual. Once a week (noon Friday), Humboldt penguins got a treat — live fish. The crows learned to mass well ahead of time; they knew the routine and “beat the keepers to their posts by a few minutes” picking off the penguins’ treats.
Here are a few more that may intrigue you:
* Crows can use tools. Corvids, which includes crows and ravens are supposedly amongst the most intelligent of birds. The New Caledonian Crow of the South Pacific, for example, reportedly makes complicated hooked tools out of leaves and twigs to probe in hold for food and even stores the tools for later use.
• Crows have emotions, such as anger and attachment. They have been known to pay their respects to the dead, visiting a fallen comrade — whether to mourn, identify their fellow flock member or evaluate the new pecking order in the flock is impossible to say.
• Crows and other corvids have amazing memories. Corvids are able to remember thousands of individual locations. The species that rely most on caches, such as nutcrackers and jays, can remember for months tens of thousands of locations where they hide seeds each year.
Finally, from cracked.com:
* Crows can remember your face.
Researchers in Seattle performed an experiment with some crows around their college campus. They captured seven of the birds, tagged them, then let them go. And they did it all while wearing creepy skin masks, because it was funny:
OK, so the scientists weren’t just playing out horror movie fantasies — they were testing whether the crows could recognize human faces or not. It turns out they can. To a frightening degree: Whenever the scientists walked around campus with the masks on, the crows would “scold” and dive-bomb them… because along with the ability to recognize us as individuals, the researchers also learned that crows can hold a grudge.
And pretty soon, it wasn’t just the first seven crows reacting. Other birds, ones that hadn’t even been captured in the first place, started dive-bombing the scientists as well.
Pretty soon, every single crow on the campus knew which masks meant trouble, and wanted the guys wearing them dead. When they didn’t wear the masks, however, the crows left them alone, because even they can’t see through disguises … yet.
So now you know: do not believe Aesop’s fable about the fox and the crow, in which the fox outsmarts the crow. It’s probably not true!
Photo Credit: Lance & Cromwell (home safe-pictures coming)