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Crow Thread

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posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 12:17 AM
Corvus brachyrhynchos

*Just filmed in 2011, this video demonstrates just how astoundingly smart these birds are

The Crow and the Pitcher

A thirsty Crow found a Pitcher with some water in it, but so little was there that, try as she might, she could not reach it with her beak, and it seemed as though she would die of thirst within sight of the remedy. At last she hit upon a clever plan. She began dropping pebbles into the Pitcher, and with each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it reached the brim, and the knowing bird was enabled to quench her thirst.

Necessity is the mother of invention.



Crows and their relatives the Raven are some of my most favorite creatures in the whole world. One of the many things that I like about them is their high intelligence and problem solving abilites which are illustrated above in the video and in the fable from Aesop which was written 2600 years ago. Crows are the arch-hackers of the avian world and research from just the last decade or so is proving these birds to be in the top eshcelon of animals that exhibit reasoning and problem-solving abilities, along with humans and dolphins; crows of the New Caledonian varity outpace just about all monkeys and apes.

In experiments performed on New Caledonian crows, researchers Christopher David Bird and Nathan John Emery of the Department of Zoology, at the University of Cambridge in Britain found that Aesop was dead on. They provided 4 crows with a tube of water witha worm in it set beside a pile of stones of first the same and then different size. Here is a summary of what was discovered.

-All four subjects solved the task, using stones to raise the water level to a height at which the worm could be reached.

-Subjects were highly successful regardless of the starting level of the water and the number of stones needed.

-They were also highly accurate, putting in only the exact number of stones needed to raise the water level to a reachable height. They did not continue putting stones into the tube once this had been achieved and did not add any more stones once they had taken the worm. This suggests that the behavior was goal directed.

All four of the crows were seen to assess the puzzle very carefully; they never tried to reach for the worm until they had added a few stones, and never added enough to make it overflow. They would add a few, re-evaluate the situation, and then add just enough to snag the worm, and then stop adding stones. Which seems to suggest that the crows used planning to figure out just how many stones were needed to get the worm-snack.

When given the choice between large and small stones for solving the problem, the crows learned rapidly to use the larger stones first. Which is flat-out werid because that means that the bird is likely able to relate the function of each stone to it's size and how much water it will displace.

When presented with the same situation only using sawdust instead of water, the crows tried the same trick and rapidly assessed that sawdust has different properties than water and moved on to thinking about other solutions. Okay? Are you weirded out yet? that's why I love crows. I'll get to more on their tool-making abilities but for now here is a vid of that experiment.

Crows live in families like we do. For families of crows it's all about their territory which is their home and for urban crows these areas range over about 10 to 15 acres. They build their nests in new locations throughout their ancestral territory every year. They mate for life, and their territories are inherited by their offspring.

They hold funerals...

They seem to have some system of "justice" that culminates in what has been called "Crow Court" or "Crow Parliament".

"...the crow-court, or meeting, does not appear to be complete before the expiration of a day or two, with crows coming from all quarters to the session.

As soon as they are all arrived, a very general noise ensues, the business of the court is opened, and shortly after they all fall upon one or two individual crows, (who are supposed to have been condemned by their peers,) and put them to death. When the execution is over, they quietly disperse."

Dr. Thomas edmondstone. View of the Ancient and Present State of the Shetland Islands

I suppose one of the ways to express how intelligent and cool these bird are is to stress that all of this knowledge concerning the lifestyles of crows was not easy to get. They catch on quick to human shennanigans, so Kevin McGowan must have been a very special person to have been able to collect the data that he did.

"They"re hard to keep track of," he says. "Initially, I wanted to test questions about cooperative breeding, but I had trouble following the adults--they fly too far and are too wary." And catching adult crows is difficult at best. The birds are intelligent and suspicious.

You can read about The Secret Lives of Crows here.

edit on 8-12-2013 by Bybyots because: . : .

+3 more 
posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 12:19 AM

Hey! I remember you! Caw!

Elephant's have got nothing on crows when it comes to the memory department. Starting in 2006 Seattle ornithologist John Marzluff and his team had began capturing and tagging crows. Part of their experiment involved wearing masks to conceal their identity. They could walk about the research area unmolested by the crows if they weren't wearing one of the masks, but when they put the mask on, even years after they had stopped capturing and tagging the crows, well, check it out...

As you likely learned from the video, this seems to mean that the crows passed on the information of the masked crow-capturers to generations of crows that weren't even alive during the capturing and tagging raids. Wow. Right?

The researchers launched a five-year study to find out how much data their research subjects had been gathering on them. To ensure that crows were responding to their faces and not to their clothes, binoculars or some other ornithologist cue, the scientists wore different masks while trapping birds at each site. The masks included a caveman, Dick Cheney and several custom-made realistic faces.

The birds quickly learned that the masked bird-trapper was bad news and proceeded to scold the mask-wearer anytime they saw him or her. But over the years, the researchers found, the mobbing became more and more widespread. In February, Marzluff said, he ventured out of his office in a mask he'd worn five years earlier while trapping seven birds.

"I got about 50 meters [165 feet] out of my office and I had about 50 birds on me, scolding me," he said. "I hadn't worn that mask on campus for a year."

They also regularly dine on schedule. The schedule of the garbageman, that is, which they have been found in urban setting to memorize so that they can cash in on whatever gets dropped, and sometimes they are ahead of the sanitation crew...

They wait patiently on rooftops and tree branches as the sun rises. When the trash goes out, the carnage begins. Crows descend upon bulging plastic bags, disembowel them in search of food, and gleefully scatter the contents across front lawns.

Professional crow-chaser Ulrich Watermann just laughs and shakes his head as he watches the birds.

"People," he says, "are incredibly stupid."

Crows, on the other hand, are smart - smart enough to memorize garbage routes and a lot more. Humans, with our big brains and opposable thumbs, should theoretically be able to outwit them. Yet fat crows and messy lawns remain common sights, not just in this southern Ontario town, but in crow-plagued cities from Burnaby, B.C., to Charlottetown.

Crows 'n Tools

Crows are incredibly cunning, so intelligent in fact that these New Caledonian crows are the only non-primate species that demonstrate evidence of cumulative cultural evolution in tool manufacture. In other words, they create tools from other tools. They also demonstrate an understanding of sequential tool use which is shown in the video above and in these vids from 2006...

...and here is a very nice mash-up of crows using tools.

This type of tool use was once thought to be the sole cognitive realm of human beings. I can't imagine how much more about them we might learn in the coming decades as research techniques become more effective and less invasive.


Ravens are known to have 33 different categories of vocalization, only a few more than their smaller brethren, the crow. Crows and Ravens exhibit distress-calls, cries of delight, gathering-calls and warning calls. Most of their vocalizations have only been discovered by years of painstaking research and are low in volume; used by the birds to communicate with one another only when they are close to each other. They are also considered to have dialects.

Several years ago I purchased a crow-call at an "Outdoor" shop that I had visited with a relative. When I saw it I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of "calling" some of the local crows that occasionally hung out in a huge elm tree near my home. I took it home and went online to listen to some crow calls and sort of got the basics down. The next time I heard them outside I went out and started to blow on the crow-call. When I brought it to my mouth I accidentally expelled some air through the thing and this lame sounding honk came out. By the time I got to the driveway a fast moving black crow was heading right for me, shot over my head, circled back and flew back to where he had come from, cawing his warning to his family in percussive threes, "Caw, caw caw!!!". Later I learned that I had roughly approximated the sound of a crow in distress.

I had heard that they were that smart, and I got a demonstration of it in no-minutes flat. They had sussed me out and would only eye-ball me for days; they didn't even bother to scold me. It was weeks before I got them to respond again, but I had improved my crow-calling skills. The experience caused me to become deeply interested in them and crows are by far one of my most favorite creatures.

Check out what this guy pulls off with his laptop playing crow calls...

Finally, for the time being at least, I absolutely have to recommend this link to you. This Nova Scotian gentleman lived with a crow named Spirit for what seems like 5 years. I have enjoyed reading his stories very much. he learned a tremendous amount about Crow Talk from Spirit. I hope that if you read any of the links in this thread that you read this one. He also collects together anecdotes that have been sent to him from all over about people's experiences with crows and even some crows that learn to speak our language.

Hoppie (the crow) could talk. He would say a number of things and would sit on top of the house and chatter away. Some times it was easy to make out what he said. However, the word he used the most was "Elmer," the name of the boy who looked after him. Hoppie would follow him to school and sit on top of the school and holler 'Elmer' as loud as he could.

The teacher contacted his mother asking that they keep him home. They locked him in the porch while Elmer walked to school. Later, they released Hoppie, and it wasn't long before he arrived at school again, hollering 'Elmer'. Everyone thought he was so smart to find his way to school all alone.

Crow Talk

Thanks ATS!

Crow Links

*Fantastic sonograms of vocalizations of the American crow. Click on sonogram images to play the recording...
Language of the American Crow

*Good page for hearing crow vocalizations.

edit on 8-12-2013 by Bybyots because: . : .

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 12:44 AM
Excellent thread, thank you!

The ability to pass on memory of a physical characteristic is very curious. It's one thing to see and mimic behavior... but that's something different. Though perhaps only ones that had experience with the mask attacked first, and others joined in. They didn't make it clear if untagged birds initiated any aggression.

This continues to lend more credence for me that certain animals might be able to operate in a sort of "shared" EM (or other) field that keeps them cognitively in sync. It isn't necessary that anything is directed or in constant contact... but instead the repeated close proximity and motion results in a constant blending and mixing of fields... resulting in an average structure we call "crow behavior".

Other creatures like humans, would not be structured to be as sensitive.

This would allow creatures like Monarch Butterflies... crows... etc... to maintain a constant ever living "mind" which is sustained by the individual bodies being in close enough proximity to influence each other through a sort of mutual osmosis.

No different than people clumping together to share and amplify mutual body heat. All that is needed is a structure sensitive to fields besides your own... and learned knowledge is perpetuated without writing needed.
edit on 8-12-2013 by BardingTheBard because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 12:48 AM
And as soon as I started reading this tread--what do I hear in the distance?

They know more than their letting on.

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 12:54 AM
I love crows and will watch all your vids when I have more time. Thanks for sharing!!

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 01:09 AM

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 01:09 AM
reply to post by Bybyots

I have heard about people going out and shooting as many crows as they can. They do not eat or use the poor birds. These sick men actually consider it fun or some kind of a game.

When I heard about it made me very angry and sad that people could be so cruel and pathetic. We live in a world were being cruel is considered cool.

I am the type of person that will walk around worms on a rainy day. I just do not see the need to kill something for no reason.

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 01:12 AM
Smarts like that are something to crow about! Another great thread, sir!

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 01:15 AM
My wife witnessed three or four Ravens sledding down a small hill one day. She and her workmates watched them as they belly flopped and slid down the hill running back up to take another turn over and over. She said it was one of the most entertaining and funny things she's ever seen. Where's the video I asked her? As usual, they were caught up in the moment and no one took the time to film it. This happened a couple of years ago so not everyone had a smartphone, so I forgive her. Also, has anyone ever seen a raven's nest? I lived in Alaska for 16years and have never seen one.

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 01:27 AM
reply to post by Bybyots

Great thread crows are amazing birds
Possibly one of the smartest birds out there. One the things I always found interesting is that they will mob owls and sometimes other raptors, just to try to scare off a potential threat before it does anything. (not that its entirely unique but is very interesting to watch in crows)

Im not sure if this is a sign of intelligence or what it is but they also appear to care for animals outside their own species

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 01:39 AM
*Crows over Chatham, Ontario, Canada

After completing her documentary A Murder of Crows in 2009 film maker Susan Fleming referred to Chatham, Ontario, Canada as "ground zero in the battle between humans and crows". Up to 600,000 crows at a time have been known to pass through Chatham during seasonal migrations, and besides the problems involving the trash cited above, they are hell on crops. The fact is, crows did not start moving out of the country and in to urban settings until the 1950s, and by the 1980s they had become a worldwide nuisance, their presence even threatening city infrastructures.

The problem became so bad in 1990s that the mayor of Chatham declared "war" on the crows. The mayor's plans did not work though and crow abatement is still a thriving business in Chatham to this day. The crows just plain outsmarted them and by the year 2000 Chatham was thought to be home to over 1 million crows. One story from that early period of open warfare in the 90s tells that when the mayor declared war folks from all over the area grabbed their shotguns and contests were announced for bringing in the largest crow, etc.

The townsfolk went out and shortly thereafter one single crow was shot from amongst dozens. The rest flew off. The townsfolk were not able to shoot one more crow after that single incident. It seems the cunning crows had spread the word and would no longer fly within range of bird-shot.

Here is Susan Fleming's documentary, I was really happy to be able to find it for us all to watch.

edit on 8-12-2013 by Bybyots because: . : .

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 01:43 AM
reply to post by Bybyots

Thank you so much for this thread and the link to the way of the crow! My mother before she passed away last year use to have a fascination with these birds. She had a murder of them in her yard that she would feed everyday. The really are smart and interesting birds. Thank you! xx

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 02:39 AM
Great post!

I was watching a group of crows down on the beach today at low tide. About sixteen crows were walking and hopping along the beach over the rocks at low tide while looking very carefully into the water, heads angled down, then grabbing something to eat. Probably the little crabs that scuttle about the tideline but I couldn't actually see. It's been unusually cold here, below freezing, for the last few days so this may be an alternative way to hunt food though I have lived here for years and never seen crows hunt or fish this way.

It was fairly unusual also as we have many resident and territorial ravens all over this area but the crow population is virtually non-existent. Lots of crows in town though. Maybe their regular food supply got frozen over and they were smart enough to figure out something new.

Ravens are my favorites though. Last week there was a raven in my backyard communicating with my chickens. They didn't speak the same language, obviously, but both species have large vocabularies and they were going through all sorts of sound combinations and listening for the answers. They all gave it a good ten minutes.

Moments like these remind me that consciousness is not the territory of humanity only and my version is just that, my version. No better, no worse.

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 04:01 AM
These are very special birds along with their cousins the Ravens. Both figure prominently in Native American myths and especially creation legends.
I've had many amazing experiences with them but I'll name just 2.

I had gone to see a lawyer in the city suburbs one day after work, by the time I left it had grown dark but when I went outside there thousands of crows everywhere in the parking lot. They were all quietly murmuring and I just watched them for 10 minutes or so until somebody drove through and ran them off.

The last time I went camping alone I went up to the top of a favorite mountain of mine and sat to watch the moonrise over the valley. As the full moon came up the quiet was upset by the soft flutter of a pair of ravens wings. They aren't supposed to be courting in the fall but it looked like that's what they were doing. They were flying acrobatics around each, would suddenly stop flying and tumble together and fall a few hundred feet while "wrestling" for lack of a better word.
This magical show seemed to all take place directly in front of that huge full moon and I felt it was just for me. It wasn't 2 months later before I became disabled and could no longer hike up to that favorite spot and I really feel I was being given a parting gift.

If you think their feathers are black pick one up and examine it closely in the sunlight. What you will see is every color under sun as their plumage is actually iridescent.
edit on 8-12-2013 by Asktheanimals because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 04:18 AM
I am presenting this as an anecdote and not referable information..

A friend of mine, an indigenous Australian, once recounted a story about traditional animism (which details are out of scope of this thread). The focus was not the spiritual powers at play but the egos and their corresponding animals. My friend, lets call him Big M (its fitting) was continually coerced (sometimes at gunpoint) by family members to engage in traditional tribal (esoteric) activities. His animal was the crow--even in their tradition an animal of death.

He had throughout his whole life tried to fit into the white man world, but he was always the crow...

My point is, these birds have a connection with us; With our dead, with our not yet dead, with our once were dead...

AND that crow in the background has returned as I typed this.

ETA: Any shooters here???
edit on 8-12-2013 by cartenz because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 06:17 AM
reply to post by Bybyots

I am going to quote myself from back in March of 2012. I had an incredible experience with a crow and felt compelled enough to do alot of research on them. What I found out was beyond incredible. Might as well share my story with you.


I can only hope to change what I can control, within reason.
There are a plethora of things that I can't control, so why worry?

Just today I came across a blackbird that got its talons covered in thick tar.
It couldn't grab anything, because the tar was keeping its talons from moving.
I had a compassionate urge to help this poor creature. I felt real bad.
It was tired and stressed, and looked like it wasn't able to fend for itself in days.
It just happened to jump in front of me at the right time, so I caught it.
Birds don't like to be touched. Or caught for that matter. This one was weak though.
This blackbird was watching me so intently, as if to sense it was getting help.
I didn't know if it could fly, so I just tried to keep it calm...that was a challenge in itself.
This poor bird probably thought I was out to kill it, not help it was struggling.
Immediately, I was compelled to get this bird back in the air, so I started cleaning.
The tar wasn't easy to remove, but once the bird started grasping my fingers, I felt better.
I brought it to an area that it could rest and regain enough strength.
Meanwhile, it was loudly making the common "CAWW" sound as if calling for help.
Four more blackbirds joined us as we all walked/flew to the river bank.
The other birds looked more sleek and strong, and they were calling loudly "CAWW"!
All the sudden, one came flying at my head! Then another! Kamikaze style!
They didn't want me touching their stranded friend. I was ducking for cover!
The next few minutes I was ducking and weaving trying not to get hit in the head...
When all the sudden, WHACK...a blackbird actually hit me in the head.
I knew these guys were seriously attacking, or guarding this other bird...
So I rushed to get to an area where I could set it down.

Then I let the blackbird rest on a guardrail post.
After five minutes, he gathered enough strength to fly atop a tree.
He perched on a tree branch and looked back at me.
We watched each other for a few minutes...
Then he "CAWWed".

As if to say, "Thanks".

That particular bird followed me around everytime I walked in his vicinity. I knew it was the same bird from the tears in some of his feathers that happened during our little mishap. I'm forever grateful to have learned about how incredible these birds truly are.

Excellent thread!


posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 06:20 AM
my favorite birds indeed, the Lakota referred to them as little black eagles because of their intelligence and demeanor. also very social birds they are, very rarely found alone for very long. i always wanted to raise one but the circumstances never did arise and i would never take one from the wild. got to raise a Kestrel Hawk since i found a wee one alone in the woods. i like to think she still fly's free today.

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 06:26 AM
Excellent thread. Crows are fastinating creatures.Years ago I used to work for the local zoo.It's located in a very old park in Buffalo.Every October the crows would gather in the tens of thousands in the park and stay together there for about a week.They came from all over the area.It seemed like they were having a party.They still do this every October.When whatever they are doing is over they disappear as quickly as they appeared.

I don't think that it is a migration thing as it doesn't occur in the spring.Very odd,there are so many of them and they raise quite a racket.It happens the second or third week in October every year.

Over the years I have known a couple of folks who kept them as pets. Super intelligent birds.They could do all kinds of tricks they had been taught.

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 06:32 AM

Excellent thread. Crows are fastinating creatures.Years ago I used to work for the local zoo.It's located in a very old park in Buffalo.Every October the crows would gather in the tens of thousands in the park and stay together there for about a week.They came from all over the area.It seemed like they were having a party.They still do this every October.When whatever they are doing is over they disappear as quickly as they appeared.

I don't think that it is a migration thing as it doesn't occur in the spring.Very odd,there are so many of them and they raise quite a racket.It happens the second or third week in October every year.

Over the years I have known a couple of folks who kept them as pets. Super intelligent birds.They could do all kinds of tricks they had been taught.

Crows do indeed migrate and that's exactly what you witnessed in October. the crows you have in your area in the winter, are not the same crows that were there in the spring summer and fall. it is a short migration, often less than 500-1000 miles or less. if you were in NY state, you would have Maine\Canadian crows over wintering in your area relatively speaking.

posted on Dec, 8 2013 @ 08:19 AM
Any reliable list of smartest animals has to have crows along with squirrels on it. They are incredible critters.

Excellent thread.

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