View Full Version : Crows!

Greg H
01-17-2003, 07:14 PM
Crows prove they are no birdbrains

The first animal to make a tool for a specific task?
The crow is putting our closest cousins to shame.

Experiments show the humble bird is better than the chimp at

British zoologists were astonished when a captive crow called Betty
fashioned a hook out of wire to reach food.

It is the first time any animal has been found to make a new tool for a
specific task, say Oxford University researchers.

They believe the bird shows some understanding of cause and effect.

"It is not only cleverer than we think in
this particular direction but probably,
at least in relation to tools, has a
higher level of understanding than
chimpanzees," says Alex Kacelnik,
Professor of Behavioural Ecology.

The Oxford team stumbled on the
discovery while studying the
behaviour of Betty and an older male
crow, Abel.

Both belong to a crow species,
Corvus moneduloides, from the
French overseas territory of New
Caledonia in the southwestern
Pacific Ocean.

Surprise snack

The researchers were testing whether the birds were able to lift food
out of a vertical tube using either a straight piece of wire or a hook.

"The surprise came in trial number five when the male stole away the
hook and flew to another part of the aviary," Professor Kacelnik told
BBC News Online.

He watched as Betty
spontaneously bent a straight piece
of wire and used it to retrieve a

The researchers then
repeated the experiment with
just a straight piece of wire to
see if it was a fluke.

Betty was able to bend the
wire and get at the food nine
times out of ten.

"Although many animals use tools, purposeful
modification of objects to solve new problems, without
training or prior experience, is virtually unknown," adds
Professor Kacelnik.

He says experiments with primates, who are much closer
relatives of humans than birds, have failed to show any
deliberate tool making and human-like understanding of
basic physical laws.

Animal insight

New Caledonian crows have been seen to make at least
two sorts of hook tools in the wild.

Gavin Hunt of the University of Auckland, New Zealand,
has studied them.

He said the behaviour of the young female crow was very
interesting but not that surprising.

"It is tempting to say that the bird used some kind of insight
to access and solve the problem of extracting the food, as
humans often do in their toolmaking," he told BBC News

"However, we need to carry out more experiments to see if
this was the case."

Other birds have also shown surprising levels of
ingenuity. The woodpecker finch of the Galapagos Islands
uses a cactus spine to spear insects.

Pigeons have been known to recognise humans and
letters of alphabet. Parrots, though, appear to be at the top
of the pecking order.

Alex, an African grey parrot, hit the headlines in the
1980s. The bird had a vocabulary of 100 English words
and was able to ask questions and make requests.

Full details of the Oxford University research are
published in the journal Science.

They be watchin' ;)

Don Olney
01-17-2003, 08:31 PM
Hunch in the trees
to gossip
about God and his inexorable
about deer guts and fish so stupid
you could sell them air
and how out in the deserts
there's a dog called coyote
with their mind
but no wings.
Crow with Iroquois hair.
Crow with a wisecrack
for everybody,
Crow with his beak
thrust through a bun,
the paper still clinging.
Then one says something
and they all leave,
the trees are not
what they used to be.
Crow with oilslick eyes.
Crow with a knife
sheathed in a shark's fin.
Crow in a midnight blue suit
standing in front of a judge:
Your Honor, I didn't kill him,
just ate him
and I wasn't impressed.
clustered in the bruise light
in the bottoms
of dreams.
Crows in the red maple.
Crows keeping disrespect
Crows teasing a stalking cat,
lifting off at the last minute,
snow shagging down
from their wings.
Crows darkening the sky,
making fun of the geese
on their way to Florida.
Crows in the roses,
beaks and thorns.
Crows feeding lizards
to their brood.
Crows lifting off road kill,
floating back down
after the car has passed.
Crow with a possum eye
speared on its beak.
Crow with a French fry.
in the chicken cages
on their way to market,
the farmer finally gone mad.
Crows hunkered down
rumpling feathers,
announcing the cataract
of snow
over the sun.
The crows prosper.
Carrion is everywhere.
The night
that is coming
is so dark
it will feel
like fur on the eyes.
So dark suddenly
you cannot see the snow.
Thrust your hand in it.
Hear it like sand
blowing on the roof.
A crow shifts his foot
and snow sifts
down from the tree.

Doug Anderson
Blues for Unemployed Secret Police
Curbstone Press
2000, Doug Anderson

01-17-2003, 08:36 PM
I once saw this happen to a crow.

This crow lives near my house, and though I have never injured him, he takes good care to stay up in the very highest trees and, in general, to avoid humanity. His world begins at about the limit of my eyesight.

On the particular morning when this episode occurred, the whole countryside was buried in one of the thickest fogs in years. The ceiling was absolutely zero. All planes were grounded, and even a pedestrian could hardly see his outstretched hand before him.

I was groping across a field in the general direction of the railroad station, following a dimly outlined path. Suddenly out of the fog, at about the level of my eyes, and so closely that I flinched, there flashed a pair of immense black wings and a huge beak. The whole bird rushed over my head with a frantic cawing outcry of such hideous terror as I have never heard in a crow's voice before, and never expect to hear again.

He was lost and startled, I thought, as I recovered my poise. He ought not to have flown out in this fog. He'd knock his silly brains out.

All afternoon that great awkward cry rang in my head. Merely being lost in a fog seemed scarcely to account for it - especially in a tough, intelligent old bandit such as I knew that particular crow to be. I even looked once in the mirror to see what it might be about me that had so revolted him that he had cried out in protest to the very stones.

Finally, as I worked my way homeward along the path, the solution came to me. It should have been clear before. The borders of our worlds had shifted. It was the fog that had done it. That crow, and I knew him well, never under normal circumstances flew low near men. He had been lost all right, but it was more than that. He had thought he was high up, and when he encountered me looming gigantically through the fog, he had perceived a ghastly and, to the crow mind, unnatural sight. He had seen a man walking on air, desecrating the very heart of the crow kingdom, a harbinger of the most profound evil a crow mind could conceive of - air-walking men. The encounter, he must have thought, had taken place a hundred feet over the roofs.

He caws now when he sees me leaving for the station in the morning, and I fancy that in that note I catch the uncertainty of a mind that has come to know things are not always what they seem. He has seen a marvel in his heights of air and is no longer as other crows. He has experienced the human world from an unlikely perspective. He and I share a viewpoint in common: our worlds have interpenetrated, and we both have faith in the miraculous.

Loren Eiseley from the essay: "The Judgement of the Birds"

01-17-2003, 08:43 PM
'At's an interesting, fine, poem there Don.

01-17-2003, 10:00 PM
Not only can crows tell if you are carrying a gun...
...they can judge the caliber and estimate the range...
...and they can look down the barrel and see whether or not it is loaded.

Don Olney
01-17-2003, 10:06 PM

Leon m
01-18-2003, 01:05 AM
come floating across the gray of a cold sky
like ashes from a chimney fire

lit by early-changing leaves
Each year,we say,there are more crows.

They sail high,and thier voices come down
like charcoal falling in a grate

the sound grating against the smooth curling
of water on driftlogs,rounded stones.

The restless water of the sound reflects
their flight,silvered waves tarnished

with mirror-specks.the crow s drift,dark
motes moving across the evening-filtered light.

This is how the long night comes:
wing after sooty wing extinguishing the sky

by Carolyn Maddux

Greg H
01-18-2003, 08:28 AM

Greg H
01-18-2003, 08:49 AM