If you clicked on this post because you already know that crows are super smart, then you might be impressed with a few of these facts. If you have never heard about the wonder that is the relatively small mind of a crow, then you are in for quite the treat, my friend.
I’ll never forget the first time a crow blew my mind – it was on a television show, and it was solving a multi-step problem in order to extract a treat from a mechanism. Like…I’m not sure I could have figured it out. (Also, you might have heard recently about the raven who screwed up an experiment by not only figuring out how to work around it, but by teaching the other birds how to do it too. Not a crow, but they are in the same family).
So what I’m saying is…prepare to be impressed.
#8. Teenage crows help out at home.
Like almost all intelligent creatures, crows are very social. They generally mate for life and spend a large part of the year with their mate or a small family group, and come winter they can be found snuggling for warmth in a larger roost.
Not only that, but juvenile crows often (up to 80% of the time) stick around for a year or two to help out around the nest – they help protect younger siblings from predators, bring food to mom and dad, and even help feed the new babies when necessary.
#7. They have regional dialects, and can learn to speak non-native ones.
They don’t just caw – crows have a wide range of noises and sounds, each one with a slightly different purpose. Not only that, but each grouping of crows might have a slightly different way of “saying” things.
In their book In the Company of Crows and Ravens, John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell claim that their calls “vary regionally, like human dialects that can vary from valley to valley. When crows join a new flock, they learn the flock’s dialect by mimicking the calls of dominant flock members.”
#6. They fight predators by ganging up on them.
Yet another reason that being social is good for survival – your friends have your back in a fight. They assemble in groups of a dozen or more, then swoop down to peck would-be offenders with their beaks. The tactic often gets predators to back off, even if a few of the brave crows end up dead in the process.
#5. They have funerals…of sorts.
A dead crow will attract a crowd of up to 100 others. No one is sure what the purpose behind the visitation is, but it’s not scavenging. They avoid the body but scientists think they may be casing the area in an attempt to learn about potential threats.
#4. They can read traffic lights.
I mean, don’t expect them to follow human rules, but carrion species have been observed taking nuts like walnuts into intersections and waiting for cars to smash them open. Then they go back out and make a quick snack of the pulpy center.
And they can do all of this because they’ve learned that if they wait until the light turns red, they’re less likely to get run over placing the nut. Then, they wait until the light is red again before going to scoop up the treat.
#3. They can recognize your face.
Also, they hold a grudge – so be careful before pissing one of them off. We know this because some scientists decided to do a study where they split into two groups and each wore different masks (a caveman and a Dick Cheney, if you’re curious). The Dick Cheneys minded their own business, while the cavemen captured birds for banding and then released them.
Years later, people who wear those cavemen masks in the area get loudly scolded and even dive-bombed by the local population (which apparently has a long memory).
#2. Think twice before calling them bird brains.
Proportionally, some crows have bigger brains than humans. And though not as smart as ravens, they might be smarter than some college students. Even though their brains are small in size, they have a high density of neurons in their forebrains – more than most primates. The amount of neurons clustered there correlates with intelligence and cognitive reasoning.
#1. Some of them can make (and use) tools.
The New Caledonian crow is the only species (aside from humans) that makes its own hooks in the wild. They bend pliable twigs into a J-shape with their beaks and feet, then use them to dig insects from small spaces. They’re not alone, either. Scientists have also observed the rare Hawaiian crow using and modifying tools.
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