The Intelligence of the Crow

A while back I read a book called “Ravens in Winter” and found the lives of crows and ravens to be very interesting. The book describes how they communicate food sources to one another through some type of unknown mechanism and their general high intelligence level.

When I was in Norway I came across a Carrion Crow (or at least I think it is; I looked it up on wikipedia) that found a clam-shell container that usually contains take out food. The crow obviously knew that it was correlated with food and poked it with its beak and shook it about deliberately before throwing it to the ground in disgust. I took a video and uploaded it and you can see it in HD here which I find very humorous.

Before 9/11 I traveled to Tasmania and had an encounter with what I believe was a Forest Raven, although once again I am not an ornithologist. The bird was AMAZINGLY persistent – when our car pulled up to a clearing it jumped on the side mirror (the window was open) and looked me right in the face (with big yellow eyes) and started cawing for food. I rolled up the window and it sat right on the hood of the car staring at me through the dashboard. I have never seen an (ostensibly wild) bird so unafraid of humans.

Cross posted at LITGM

13 thoughts on “The Intelligence of the Crow”

  1. They seem to have some way of communicating to each other. And they are smart.

    Wonder how many varieties there are 0- and is a raven – a different species I know – but is it simply bigger?

    Some years ago our area was infested with them – they will drive out the smaller birds. A friend and I went onto another friend’s ranch with the intention of thinning the herd. We came in with shotguns and within 15 minutes the whole area was devoid of them.

    Came back the following day without shotguns and they were all there –

    Returning with the guns they took off.

    That has to take some kind of intelligence.

  2. Saw a show about how intelligent crows are. An academic type, who was testing the intelligence of crows, had a crow that would make “tools” to get food out of an enclosed space. The tool was a stick that the crow would strip the small twigs off of the side and then use the stick to manipulate a piece of food under a barrier. In one experiment, they were trying for the first time during the filming of the show, the crow had to use a second stick to get the first stick out of a box before it could make its food reaching tool. Sorry for the convoluted explanation. I think it was on Nova/PBS.

  3. And then there is the video of the sledding crow in Russia, a bird that apparently thought sliding down a steep, snowy rooftop on some sort of lid was fun enough to do over and over again.

  4. RAVENS IN WINTER is just one of the incredibly good books by Bernd Heinrich. another great one is THE MIND OF THE RAVEN. check out all his books, he spent many winters alone in a cabin in the Maine forest studying ravens and their interactions with wolves. anything by him is highly worthwhile.

  5. Crows have been shown to be able to count, I think it was to four. An experiment was, like Bill’s, with shotguns. The crows were living in a barn. The shooters were in a group. They went into the barn and the crows quickly disappeared. One shooter left the barn but the crows stayed away. Two left the barn, then three, then four. After the fourth shooter left the barn, the crows returned. It was repeated a number of times wit the same result. If less than four shooters left the barn, the crows would stay away. If one or two went into the barn and then left, the crows knew there was none left.

    Maybe the number was three.

  6. Nancy, yes, and the crow jumped off the lid when it got to the bottom of the slide, picked it up in its beak and carried it up to the top of the roof, positioned it and jumped on again for another ride. The crow family, including ravens, are the most intelligent birds.

  7. Not about crows, but starlings… A neighbor once scattered mothballs around her garden to discourage squirrels. It didn’t do much for that, but I watched as a flock of starlings picked up the mothballs and rubbed them all over their bodies — some even rubbing them over each other. I asked around and found out that this is normal behavior. They apparently know that the camphor balls kill the mites that infest them. Not so dumb birds.

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