Mad About Crows

28 09 2013

IMG_7702The crow, raven, magpie, blackbird, or whatever you call this common worldwide bird, maintains a sordid reputation. What is your opinion of the crow and what circumstance formed it: A storyline, a superstition, an experience? Chances are that you disdain them, labeling them as scavengers, thieves, murderers, and generally noisy pests. You’re right; crows are all of that—but so much more.

Scientists categorize crows as one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, comparing them with chimpanzees, apes, and humans. Some species of crows snag the top spots on the avian IQ scale. Crows learn quickly, posses an envious memory, count and problem-solve. Extensive research concludes that crows construct and utilize their own tools to acquire food and other desired objects. They wield knives of stiff grass blades and edges of leaves. They grasp twigs to spear food in spaces where their beaks can’t reach. They fish with bait and dunk food in water to soften it for their babies. They use us as nutcrackers. Well, technically, the crows drop hard-shelled nuts onto streets and wait for our cars to drive over and crush them so they can swoop down and eat the nutmeat. Pretty clever!

IMG_1881It’s common to spot crows hunting in a variety of places such as open fields, suburban neighborhoods, and crowded parking lots. They’ll eat almost anything including worms, small animals, eggs, seeds, agriculture, and even garbage. Despite their nuisance, they can assist farmers by eating destructive insects and varmints.

Crows recognize individual human faces. If one determines a certain person is dangerous, it alerts other crows to memorize that particular face and either avoid or attack it. Crows also warn each other about unsafe locations. We are newly grasping the complexity of their vocalizations. We find they mimic and respond to other species’ languages, beyond their own distinctive calls.

Lore alleges that crows steal and cache shiny objects. Captive crows find man-made things to keep them occupied, which may or may not be metallic depending on what is provided, but wild crows only collect and store food. They turn to nature for their entertainment, playing with items such as sticks, acorn caps, and each other. Crows also enjoy sporty activities and competitions.

IMG_0064-3Lastly, crows generally mate for life unless a dire circumstance prevents that natural tendency. They keep their family together even when their young ones grow to full size. The next time you spot a crow, observe closely and notice that the mate is nearby. If they have some teens still hanging around, those won’t be too far away either.

The smaller Northwestern Crow resides only along
the Pacific Northwest Coast.

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