Saturday, January 5, 2013


As I was browsing the internet this past week I was intrigued by a film that looked at the behavior and the intelligence levels of Crows. 
 Because of the Corvid family's intelligence Hugnin teaches audiences that..."even a bird can recycle"
The film focused on a study being conducted at the University of Washington where John Marzluff and his team have been studying the Crows’ abilities to facially recognize humans.

John Marzluff and his team in Seattle have been conducting some very interesting studies on the Crows in the Seattle area.  In the past Marzulff has estabished that the Crows that had been tagged at the University have not forgotten their experience.  He is reminded of this when he puts on the mask that he wore when the Crows were tagged.  At first the Crows that were tagged would harass him when he walked by with the mask on, but he noticed that over time not only did the original birds remember, but that individuals also spread the word to other birds.
This left Marzluff with some interesting questions about what we truly know about Crows.  To prove (or disprove) his theory he designed a study to put the Crows’ facial recognition and cultural transmission skills through a simple experiment.  What he planned on doing was seeing if Crows were able to pass on information from not just one adult Crow to another, but from one generation to the next.  This ability has only been found in primates and humans.  Marzluff did this by banding adult breeding pairs in 5 different locations. While the Crows were being banded the team wore a mask so the bird would recognize them as a threat.

As the baby Crows developed the team would walk through the area with the assigned mask.  What they were hoping to accomplish by doing this was to have the babies see and remember what their parents did when the masked man was around.
 John Marzluff and one of the Crows he has been studying
 As the study progressed the babies were banded, and tracking monitors were attached by Marzluff and his team without the mask on, so Marzluff and his team could observe the development of the young Crows. Marzulff had a total of 8 young Crows in the study and by November of the Crows’ hatch year only one had survived. Marzluff was able to locate this Crow and could run the last test in the study.

Marzluff first walked by the crow to record a normal reaction to an unmasked human, and the bird responded by doing almost nothing to acknowledge his presence.  However, when Marzluff put on the mask the reaction was much different. The Crow took very much interest in Marzluff with the mask on, and after a few minutes the Crow became so upset that it let out an alarm call.

Marzluff was successful in showing that Crows are capable of passing on vital information from one generation to the next.  This means they are able to change and adapt to their environment.
 Because of the Corvid family's intelligence, Hugnin, a White Naped Raven has learned to accept donations

When you think about it are we so different from Crows?  Crows and humans are social, adaptive, intelligent, opportunistic, and omnivores. The building blocks of higher intelligence are not exclusive to just humans; other organisms have also had success by using their head.
When visiting the World Bird Sanctuary be sure to take a walk down the display line where several corvids (the family that includes Crows and Ravens) are housed.

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator 

1 comment:

Lemayrenee said...

There are falconers who you can pay to bring their Harris Hawks to an area where you feel there are too many American Crows. He releases his hawk which takes down one Crow. He recovers the Crow and makes sure it is not hurt. The falconer hold the Crow and yells at it, then releases it. This Crow goes back to the group and tells the other Crows about his horrible experience, and usually the whole Murder of Crows will leave the area not to return for a couple of years or least until the next season. UNBE3LIEVABLE. I always stop talking to my neighbor outside when a Crow fly over, since I do not want them blabbing my information LOL