Beware the Birds: Crows Form, Nurse and Share Grudges Against Humans

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Fair warning: if you’re someone who hasn’t been able to walk past a murder of crows since you first saw The Birds, this post might not be for you.

Because recent studies are confirming what scientists and bird watchers have long suspected – crows (and other corvids) are super smart. They can make, store, and care for tools, count, exercise self-restraint, use bait to catch fish, and play.

Not only that, but they really aren’t going to put up with any sh*t from humans, so be careful the next time you want to shoo away one of these black, smart-as-a-whip birds because they’ve got a long, long memory, my friends.

Image Credit: Pixabay

The study found that not only do birds feel wronged by people, and not only do they remember the faces of those who wronged them, but they also enlist the help of other birds in order to exact revenge.

Researchers from the University of Washington School of Forest Resources created a simple experiment using two masks – one of a caveman face and the other of Dick Cheney (no word on why). The person wearing the caveman face approached crows at five sites in and around Seattle, trapping crows at each on to place bands on their legs before setting them free.

Image Credit: Pixabay

The released birds were angry about their treatment and would scream at their captor upon being released – a harsh, aggressive cry called “scolding” that brought more birds over to join the party. Mobs of crows hounded the person in the caveman mask with loud cries and even dived at him, despite the fact that most of the birds had not been affronted. The angry group pursued him for over 300 feet as he walked away.

The crows did not take any notice of the man in the Dick Cheney mask at all.

What’s even stranger (and arguably more awesome) is that when researchers took their masks to other crow territories – some up to a mile away from the original site – the crows there were up in arms at the site of the same caveman mask, despite the fact that none of them had ever been caught or banded.

Image Credit: Pixabay

They’d somehow heard about the caveman guy and knew to steer clear and give him the what-for in the process.

The grudge lasted, too, up to five years. The lead researcher commented to Discovery News that adult crows can live 15-40 years in the wild, and apparently they’ve got great memories for the associations they’ve formed that they deem important.

Be nice to the birds, y’all. If you’re not, we really don’t know what might happen to you.