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10 Neat Things: About Crows

10 neat things crows

1. Eat crow – maybe it will make you smarter.

Of all the animals in the animal kingdom, crows are among the very smartest – not that far behind apes and even humans. They are excellent puzzle solvers and have been shown to make tools to solve problems. Apparently, the part of avian brains responsible for executive decisions, the nidopallum, is the same relative size as that of the neocortex in chimps and humans.

10 neat things crows

2. Aesop’s tale of the crow and the pitcher.

I bet you thought that was just a myth, but modern-day experiments show that, indeed, crows can figure out that dropping pebbles in a vessel will raise the water level so they can reach it or any food that floats in it. Click here to see what I mean.

10 neat things crows

3. Things not in the here and now.

Other than humans, it is believed that only honeybees doing their waggle dance to show where a food source is and some ants who can come back to the nest to recruit help to drag an oversize food source home, have the ability to conceptualize things that are not physically present or happening right now (I’m not sure I believe this, but…). However, crows can do this too. It is called “displacement” and crows have the ability to remember and pass on information not just to their peers, but to subsequent generations.

4. Talk of the town.

Crows have their own language and use it to discuss things. You can hear them early in the morning, vocalizing in a conversational way back and forth like, as they say, two old crows. Crows can make a wide range of sounds, from the typical caws to clicks to rattles and even bell-like notes. They can imitate cats, whistles and humans. They will also respond to other species. However, contrary to an old myth, you do NOT split their tongues to help them talk. They can learn perfectly well without mutilation.

10 neat things crow

5. Long-livers.

There seems to be some disagreement about how long crows can live, with some accounts saying the oldest known crow – this one recorded in 1988 by the Ontario Bird Banding Association – was almost 30 when it died. In the wild, though, long life for a crow would be somewhere between 10 and 17 years, with the average wild lifespan being about seven years.

10 neat things crow

6. Family life.

A pair generally mate for life, not splitting up unless they are barren, in which case they divorce and look for a new mate. Mating pairs build the nest together. She incubates the three to seven eggs for 18 days without his help, but he feeds her as a reward and will often watch the nest while she takes a short break. Their offspring often hang around with their parent for five or so years. (They are not sexually mature until two years old and often don’t mate for another two or three years, helping out with the housework and raising the young ones before they head out on their own.) Sometimes, they will return to visit their families after a long absence.

 
10 neat things crow

7. Crow snowbirds.

Just like human Canadians, our crows like to head south for the winter. They don’t leave the continental United States though, just flying to climates where the temperatures remain above zero. There they will congregate in large numbers at some traditional spot, going back there year after year. On the West Coast, they get about as far south as Vancouver, where in places such as Burnaby a few hundred of them can be seen roosting in convenient trees.

10 neat things crow

8. Food hoarders.

You might say crows are private diners. They like to cache their food and will just pretend to hide it in their breast feathers when other crows are watching, then flying off to a more private spot. Unfortunately, the watching crows are often wise to this trick and will follow the hoarder, knowing that it was just pulling a sleight of beak, so to speak. They sometimes hide food in rain gutters or bird baths, especially if taking it to a brooding female. What they are doing is soaking food in water for her because it would be hard for them to transport the water in their beaks. And they do not steal shiny objects or hide things (although their cousin the raven has been known to make off with golf balls).

10 neat things crow

9. I see you – you jerk!

Crows have very good memories for human faces and can identify the resident jerk who harassed them or the gentle soul who kindly gave them peanuts. They quickly become attached to the nice guys and will follow you about looking for more treats once they know you are a generous guy. But if your nature is more miserly or if you have had a dispute over something, they will remember for generations. They pass the word around, too, not just to their offspring but to their extended family and friends.

10. I miss you, beloved.

Crows gather to say goodbye to the departed. Sometimes they will simply roost for 20 minutes or so in the vicinity of a dead friend, but often they have been seen to drop twigs on the body, in what seems to be a gesture of respect.




-Dorothy Dobbie Copyright©
Pegasus Publications Inc

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