Bird Brains
August 26, 2012 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Staying_On-Topic in r/intelligentanimals posts a huge number of links explaining why Corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, etc) are amazing.
posted by The Whelk (33 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I'm reserving judgment until they actually blow up a gas station in Sonoma County.
posted by tigrefacile at 3:27 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

...but judging by this the day is not far off.
posted by tigrefacile at 3:31 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

In one of the videos it says they are as smart as two or three year old children. In my limited experience year old children aren't that smart, but three of them working together,now we are getting somewhere.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:45 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

PBS Nature : A Murder of Crows
posted by crunchland at 3:50 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know if the metatool test was mentioned but they can solve it and that blows my mind.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:50 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

my topic for today is not crows

this guy's a liar
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:53 PM on August 26, 2012

Okay that's it, I'm gonna start throwing snacks to the local crows when I have something to share. I already greet them politely when I pass.
posted by egypturnash at 3:54 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Related mefi post: Masters of Deceit, Clever Ravens with lots of good links.
posted by nickyskye at 3:54 PM on August 26, 2012

TwelveTwo, that link of yours immediately redirects to a webring (those still exist?) about Corvids. Weird.
posted by pyrex at 3:54 PM on August 26, 2012

Over the years, having learned many of these tidbits concerning crows and ravens, it makes the whole hypothetical "what animal would you be" question so much easier to answer.

Fairly high intelligence, sociability, family, friends,tools, AND flight....easy answer.
posted by sendai sleep master at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another mefi user and I were at a isolated California beach. There we saw a older larger Crow was digging the small crabs out of the damp sand below the high tide line and after slaying them, ate the best (easy) parts.

The 2 other seemingly younger smaller Crows didn't quite get it yet (where the food was coming from) but were watching the older one hard and cleaning up the scraps as the older one worked the beach.
posted by blink_left at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's when the crows team up with the octopodes that we've got problems
posted by dng at 4:34 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

I was at the wife with my beach. No. Rather, I was at the beach with my wife.

A crow had dug up some morsel, and was working on eating it, when a seagull swooped in and drove the crow off.

The crow pragmatically went looking for something else it could eat, and lo! it found an extraordinarily tasty chunk of some type of organic matter and tore into it with every expression of delight. The seagull saw this and flitted over to repeat its trick, dropping the original morsel.

The crow abandoned its new prize and hurried over to its first meal, flying off with it.

Leaving the seagull fussing at a worthless bit of crab shell.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2012 [21 favorites]

Okay that's it, I'm gonna start throwing snacks to the local crows when I have something to share.

They will learn to recognize you. They will follow you. They may well figure out where you're coming from (house, subway stop, etc.) and decide to wait for you there. If you're okay with this, then snack away.
posted by rtha at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dumb question: then why do scarecrows work? (Or do they not?)
posted by slidell at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2012

scarecrows don't work real well

although combined with a little gunplay, they can do some good
posted by pyramid termite at 5:35 PM on August 26, 2012

Ah, a chance to post one of the few lolcrow pics.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:48 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite] here.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:48 PM on August 26, 2012

We have a murder (or more, I can't tell) that hang around our cove all year. They travel up and down, in and out of the woods, calling to each other all the time. It's a big part of the soundtrack of my life here. They know when we pitch old food out on the compost pile. They follow the cats around and do the dirty work of cleaning up the many, many corpses they create. They chase the hawks away when they come around.

They know what they're doing, and do it well.
posted by Red Loop at 6:20 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a huge crew of crows (much bigger than a murder -- this is hundreds to a thousand or three) that usually roosts in the woods/parks behind my house. They've been a bit scarcer this year because we've also had nesting merlin falcons, but my neighbors still complain about the crows' racket. I remind them that if it weren't for the crows, our road would perpetually be paved in dead squirrel meat, and I toss the crows dog treats from my deck.

To date, I am more popular with the crows than with the neighbors. I'm a-ok with that.
posted by vers at 6:42 PM on August 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

We want to be your favorite bird.
posted by ovvl at 7:31 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've probably told this story before. I have been fascinated with crows for a long time, since living in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood which hosted a ginormous murder; easily 100,000 birds or more (that's an estimate I read from the city historical society not just me making shit up btw). They would darken the skies when they roosted in the evenings and took off in the mornings. The trees along the hillside would be black with them.

I had never really thought about crows being super intelligent before this; I mean, I knew they were smart and they liked to torture my neighbor's cat, but I just enjoyed watching them fly around each day.

Then one day I was idly eating my lunch in a small park next to a Wendy's drive thru, and watching a crow eat french fries. Someone had dropped a big box of fries in the drive thru, and the crow was taking advantage of the free meal. It would swoop in, grab a couple of loose fries that were scattered around outside the box, then take off before the next car would drive through. Not so unusual, standard bird behavior, right?

Then there was a lull in traffic through the drive thru. Without missing a beat, the crow swooped back in, neatly popped the remaining loose fries back inside the box... then carefully picked up the entire box such that all the remaining fries stayed inside and flew off with it.

that, my friends, was a real a-ha moment in my realizing that those fuckers can not only reason, calculate consequences and understand future gains, they can also use tools and quite possibly even guesstimate down to the nearest gram how many fries they need to eat before the remainder of the box is light enough to fly away with!
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:11 PM on August 26, 2012 [21 favorites]

When I was camping I once heard a crow who had a syncopated call. Quarter note, quarter note, quarter pause, two eighth notes: Caw Caw CawCaw.

He would repeat it every now and then. None of the other crows in the area did this. I think he just figured it out and liked the sound of it.

posted by eye of newt at 9:17 PM on August 26, 2012

(there was a written 'pause' in brackets before the CawCaw that got erased because of the brackets.
posted by eye of newt at 9:18 PM on August 26, 2012

I'm a pretty big fan of black birds. I recommend you whistle at them, squawk, whatever. If they reply in pattern: squawk, squawk, then mimic it: whistle, whistle. They'll test you until they are confident that there is life on Earth. Then they will make a ruckus everytime they see you, but don't think you are special. They are just be happy to know the Earth is not merely some dumb planet of birds. There is life in the universe after all.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:20 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

We're the aliens
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:26 PM on August 26, 2012

much bigger than a murder -- this is hundreds to a thousand or three

A mass murder, perhaps?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:46 PM on August 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I had a crow give me a piece of redwood bark. My daughter used to know all the crows in the neighborhood.
Also the weirdest sight ever is the first time you see a pie-bald crow.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:00 AM on August 27, 2012

A memory:

I was camping outside of Flagstaff, AZ one fall evening, laying in the back of my truck, drifting toward sleep, lulled by the soft, rhythmic swell and ebb of the forest breathing as the wind sighed through the ponderosas. At some point the wind shifted, picked up a little, and started making that soft, mournful sound it sometimes makes when it catches a rock crevice or fork in a tree at just the right angle, something between a whistle and a moan. The wind would swell and wail gently, then subside...rise again...subside.... The air was cool, carrying just the barest hint of winter chill. The effect was...not entirely relaxing, but somehow a blend of peaceful and disquieting, and more than a little entrancing. Soon, it seemed to be saying, soooooon.......

After a little while of this, a raven somewhere nearby began singing its response to the wind. It began simply, uttering a series of familiar-sounding croaks and squawks each time the wind's crooning began to trail away. With each repetition, though, the bird's response grew a little more elaborate. Soon it was incorporating grackle-like sounds as well as clicks and clucks and creaks and whirrs and chuckles into longer and longer sentiments that carried on into the lull between breezes. Then it would fall silent until the wind revived and inspired it to improvise an even more artful accompaniment. Over the course of about an hour, this developed into the most voluptuous, otherworldly duet these ears have ever heard, laden with squawps and kreels and twirrillips and a diverse repertoire of other sounds that, by my lights, no human language, written or spoken, can even begin to approximate, no matter how gifted the poet or licentious his prose - sounds that it flummoxes my mind to try to recall, so eerie and unfamiliar were they.

To this day it still sometimes sends frissons up and down my spine to mentally cast myself back into that space, that night, when I heard a raven make love to the wind in the waning days of a dying year.

Another memory:

A cat at the base of a wooden telephone pole, looking quizzically at the raven atop it meowing down at her.
posted by perspicio at 12:52 AM on August 27, 2012 [9 favorites]

The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness.

"We declare the following: The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates."
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:14 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pigeons as baggage screeners, rats as rescuers
Animals are being conditioned to accomplish amazing feats--and the potential is even greater than what's been tapped.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:03 AM on August 27, 2012

Wasn't Professor Tolkien on-the-mark in making a Corvid a critical strategic ally during the events at The Lonely Mountain? Perhaps he had many Corvid friends in Oxford!
posted by Galadhwen at 8:47 AM on August 27, 2012

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