Posts Tagged ‘The Intelligence of Crows’


Crows, man.

Well, maybe and maybe not. But I bet they’re smarter than you think.

Nature can be a fascinating, crazy, shocking, and sometimes terrifying place. Just read my blog entitled Someday, octopuses are going to rule the world if you don’t believe me. Anywho, as I was perusing the worldwide interweb today I ran across an article about crows. This, of course, led to more research on my part and what I found out was amazing. Read on to find out 5-ways crows are w-a-y smarter than you ever thought they were.

  • CROWS CAN REMEMBER YOUR FACE. All crows look alike to us, right? Well, we don’t all look alike to crows. Not at all. We know this because researchers in Seattle performed an experiment with some crows around their college campus. They captured seven of the birds, tagged them, then let them go. And they did it all while wearing creepy skin masks to hide their true identity. The scientists were testing whether the crows could recognize human faces or not. It turns out they can and to a frightening degree. Whenever the scientists walked around campus with the masks on, the crows would “scold” and dive-bomb them, because along with the ability to recognize us as individuals, the researchers also learned that crows can hold a grudge. And pretty soon, it wasn’t just the first seven crows reacting. Other birds, ones that hadn’t even been captured in the first place, started dive-bombing the scientists as well. In case you think they were just telling each other “get the guy with the mask,” they weren’t. The test was repeated with multiple people wearing multiple masks, and without fail, the crows left the masked men who hadn’t messed with them alone, but went batshit crazy on the mask that had been worn while messing with them. That’s wild, man.
  • CROWS COMMUNICATE AND CONSPIRE WITH EACH OTHER. So, how did those crows above, the ones that were never even captured in the first place, know to harass the masked scientists? The answer is simple. They were told by other crows. Seems all that cawing isn’t just noise, they’re talking to one another, and doing so in a very advanced fashion. And get this – scientists readily acknowledge that crows have regional dialects. And it’s not just that they’re capable of identifying threats within their visual range and relaying that information to one another, Some of the crows never actually saw the person in the mask, but they knew about him all the same. Wanna hear something even more scary? Subsequent generations of crow, whose only experience with the “masked scientists” was apparently from stories told to them by other crows, displayed the exact same antagonistic behavior when encountering the masks. So, not only do they recognize us as individuals, but they have the means to describe us in detail to one another, even across generations. You know what that means, right kids? If you’ve ever messed with a crow, even if it was just the one time back when you were a kid, his children might be out there right now, plotting your bloody end.
  • MORE PROOF THAT CROWS HAVE AMAZING MEMORIES AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS.  In Chatham, Ontario, crows began using the town as a sort of rest stop along their migration route. The end result was hundreds of thousands of birds taking refuge in the city, and because Chatham is a farming community and crows tend to ruin crops there were major problems. It got so bad that the mayor declared war on them. The townspeople set out hoping to bag at least 300,000 of the 600,000 birds that were currently ruining their livelihood. Unfortunately for Chatham, word spreads fast in crow communities. The first day after the announcement was made, hunters went out and shot a crow.One. Crow.It seems the rest flew off and, believe it or not, began to spread word about the incident. And chillingly enough, after this incident the Chatham crows always made sure to fly high enough above settled areas to avoid getting hit with bird shot. No more were killed that year. At all.

    So, to reiterate, one crow dead out of more than half a million. One. And this behavior is not isolated to Chatham, either: Crows have been known to change their entire migration pattern to avoid farms where even a single crow has been killed in the past. Generations upon generations later, they still remember specific houses where one measly bird has died.

  • CROWS USE TOOLS TO SOLVE PROBLEMS. One early test of tool use and intelligence in crows had researchers tying a piece of meat to a string, and then tying that string to a stick. To a one, the crows all stood on the stick, grabbed the string, dragged it up, held it with their foot, and repeated the action until they could reach the meat from their cage. Hell, I had 5th graders who would fail that test. In another experiment, some food was placed in a little basket and then placed in a tube just out of reach of a crow named Betty. She and another crow, Abel, had two pieces of wire they could use to get the basket: One hooked, one straight. Abel grabbed the hooked wire and took off, selfish bro that he was. But then Betty took the straight piece, bent the wire into a hook and then used it to pull the basket out of the tube. And kids, this was the first time she or Abel had ever encountered wire.
  • CROWS LET US DO THEIR WORK FOR THEM. Crows pay attention to how the human world works, and often use it to their advantage. Some have been observed cracking walnuts by dropping them from the exact height needed to bust them open on the pavement. But in other cases, they take gravity out of the equation and just drop the nuts in front of cars, letting us do the work for them. These same crows also memorize the pattern of traffic lights to optimize the exact moment they drop the nuts, but also to make sure they only retrieve them when the light is red and the crosswalk sign is on, so they don’t get run over. Again, smarter than that idiot who jaywalked in front of you yesterday, amirite?

So yeah, crows? Frighteningly smart. On a related note, if crows and octopuses ever decide to conspire against us we are screwed, man.

Note: I got a bunch of my information over at, so thanks to the folks over there.

Beware the Crows!