Crows Are Smarter Than 6-Year-Olds

American crow carrying two peanuts (photo by Jacob McGinnis)
(photo by Jacob McGinnis)

By now everyone in North Oakland is wondering: Why is it so hard to move the winter crow roost out of our neighborhood?

Perhaps it’s because crows are smarter than 6-year-olds.

Back in 2013 researchers presented New Caledonian crows with the same cognitive tests given to children ages 4-10.

All the children passed the simple water displacement tests: Drop pebbles into a water-filled tube to raise the water level and bring a floating treat within reach.

But children ages 4-6 failed the final test in which two of the tubes had a hidden connection. Stones dropped in one tube raised the water in another.  Six-year-old brains weren’t mature enough yet.

Children ages 7-10 passed that final test, “Experiment 6, U-Tube” at the end of the video below.  Notice that the crow succeeds.  He, too, is smarter than a 6-year-old.

Since crows understand cause and effect, simple scare tactics just aren’t scary enough.  Crows see through the ruse and innovate around the problem.

So getting the crows to leave North Oakland is a bit like convincing a roomful of boisterous 7-year-olds that they want to choose what we have in mind.

Perhaps we could get some tips from Cub Scout leaders.  😉


Read more about this study here in Science Daily.

(photo by Jacob McGinnis)

6 thoughts on “Crows Are Smarter Than 6-Year-Olds

  1. Despite the evidence they leave behind, I still think they are amazing. I’ll stand along Fifth or Bigelow in the evenings and watch them chatter and fly from branch to branch. Even in the middle of the night there are always a bunch of them awake and moving about, perhaps the guards on that shift.

    Last week on Tuesday when the snow moved in during the day, they all stayed away. They’re smart enough to not try and travel in bad weather. That’s smarter than some adults! Then Wednesday night they were all back in Oakland.

    They really are amazing.

  2. I do love crows. One of my favorite legends about crows. A Lenape Legend:
    Excerpt from a book written by James Alexander Throm called: The Red Heart.

    “The Rainbow Crow was beautiful to hear and to see, back in the days when it never got cold, back in the Ancient Days, before Snow Spirit appeared in the World.

    When the Snow Spirit did appear, all the people and animals were freezing and a messenger was selected to go up to kijilamuh ka’ong, The Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be. The messenger was to ask The Creator to think of the World as being warm again so that they would not all freeze to death.

    Rainbow Crow was chosen to go and he flew upward for three days. He got the Creator’s attention by singing beautifully, but even though he begged the Creator to make it warm again, the Creator said He could not, because He had thought of Cold and He could not unthink it. But He did think of Fire, a thing that could warm the creatures even when it was cold. And so He poked a stick into the Sun until it was burning, and the gave it to Rainbow Crow to carry back to earth for the creatures. The Creator told Rainbow Crow to hurry before it burned all up.

    Rainbow Crow dove down and flew as fast as he could go. The burning stick charred all of his beautiful feathers until they were black and since he was carrying the stick in his beak, he breathed the smoke and heat until his voice was hoarse.

    And so the Rainbow Crow was black and had an unpleasant cawing voice forever after, but all the creatures honored him, for he had brought Tindeh, fire, for everyone to use.

    The Crow is to this day, still honored by hunters and animals, who never kill it for food…and, if you look closely at the Crow’s black feathers you can still see many colors gleaming in the black.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.