Crows are even smarter than you think

American Crow (photo from Shutterstock)July 28, 2009:

You bet crows are smart!  Here are two stories about how very smart they are.

There was a radio article on NPR yesterday morning in which two eminent crow specialists described how crows recognize humans by their faces.

Kevin McGowan (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and John Marzluff (University of Washington) wrote the book on crows – literally, books – and they know what they’re talking about.  They’ve banded and studied more crows than most of us will see in our lifetimes and they soon realized the crows knew exactly who they were no matter what they were wearing.  Marzluff conducted a study to prove it.

I am so impressed!  I was even more impressed when I visited the Morning Edition website, watched the video and took this test: “Can you recognize a crow by its face?” (I can’t.)  Try your own skill here.

And… on the way to finding that article, I found another one about a crow-sized camera that was fitted to New Caledonian crows to record them making and using tools.  My favorite part was, “They caught 18 wild crows and attached the cameras, which weigh less than half an ounce. A timer kept the cameras from filming for a couple days, otherwise they would just record crows trying to tear them off.”

Of course!  It made me laugh out loud.

(photo from Shutterstock by Alexander Chelmodeev)

7 thoughts on “Crows are even smarter than you think

  1. Hi, Kate–I’ve always just checked out your peregrine posts but since it’s so quiet this time of year, I’ve been reading all of them. I’m learning a lot and enjoying them immensely. I also heard the NPR segment — I loved the part about how the crows turned their heads to look at upside down masks. I’ll have to check out the NPR site.

    Thanks again for your great BLOG. Kathy

  2. My opinion on Robin’s comment: I think psittacines and corvids are equally smart in different ways. I live with 11 parrots and have rehabbed crows. I think that both species are incredibly intelligent but have different behaviors and goals.

  3. My mother sent me this story about crows:
    I read the “Crow” blog to your Dad and he started telling me about the crows on the golf course. They’re after food, of course, and the guys need something to keep them going for 18 holes. Well, the crows have figured out that nobody eats on the front 9 (guys just had breakfast) so they wait on the 10th tee! Then they follow around the second 9 and steal out of the carts & bags. They sit on the roof of the cart and wait. I’m sure they know the guys who have the best snacks. Your Dad has had his crackers stolen more than once. He puts them in a zip pocket of his golf bag. Only thing is, in the new bag the most convenient pocket is mesh! The crows have tried to peck through it, so far unsuccessfully.

  4. The Aviary has a crow in residence and he’s really cool. When they had him on display, he would lure people to pet him (which I know you’re not supposed to do) by bending his head down for a scratch. He would then quickly come up and nip your finger and hop away laughing. Seriously. He had done it to me many a time. (I always made sure there weren’t kids around) He never bit hard enough to be really painful.

    I’ve always found it fascinating in the fall and winter to see great flocks of them gathering at twilight. I think it’s called “mobbing”. Literally over a thousand of them would fly over and gather on the Polish Hill side of the busway or on top of apartment buildings on Center Avenue. I’ve missed many a bus because I was so enthralled just watching them noisily fly over.

  5. It’s not only crows that know the 10th hole on a golf course is the best dining room! Several years ago, my husband was fortunate enough to play Pebble Beach, and I to come along. Awesome scenery. Seagulls had also figured out the food source, and were bold enough to come into the cart WHILE I WAS SITTING THERE to steal from the shelf! He gave me a driver to wave in the air as a deterrent! Thank goodness it wasn’t a sand wedge! (sandwich?) They would have found it attractive!


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