|Corvus corone...Hashibosogarasu... Carrion Crow|
A couple of weeks ago, biologist Jerry Coyne over at WEIT featured a post on Corvid Savants which just fascinated the heck out of me:-))
It reminded me of a TED talk a while back by Joshua Klein on the Intelligence of Crows , which stayed in my mind for a long time after watching it because I agreed so strongly with Klein's motives for studying them. In his TED talk he says he was goaded into action by an acquaintance at a party, who maintained that crows were incorrigible pests and ought to be systematically exterminated. Surely humans are inadvertently responsible for enough extinctions already without adding intentional exterminations to the ever-lengthening list of shame? His response--which I applaud--was to attempt to "turn the longstanding rivalry between man and crow into something profiting both species."
|Corvus macrorhynchos...Jungle Crow...Hashibutogarasu|
|Heckel and Jeckyl;-)|
These observations were in my mind when I watched--with pleasure, rather than astonishment--Betty the New Caledonian crow's wire-bending accomplishments, and the traffic-light-obeying Carrion crows of Sendai using traffic to crack their nuts (both videos posted in the WEIT article, linked above). I was interested, too, to learn how long they live (20 years or so!) and how social they are (like many raptors, corvids tend to be monogamous--generally mating for life). After reading Dr. Coyne's article at WEIT, I looked up Joshua Klein's TED talk and watched it again--and was intrigued by his recounting of the University of Washington grad students who had to wear masks and wigs when banding crows, so as not to be harassed by those same crows for the rest of their grad school days. Crows can recognize you--and remember you.
The very next morning, continuing up the river after walking the kids to school, I was surprised to see three crows swoop in to land on the railing *right* next to a woman walking her dog. When she came toward me, I smiled and said she must have been surprised to have a crow land so close to her. She wasn't, though. *I* was surprised when she said that the crows knew her because she always fed them some of her dog's food pellets (the soft kind, it looked like to me) when she walked her dog. I mentioned that I'd read that crows were actually very intelligent and could recognize individual faces--she said, yes, they did recognize her. I watched her walk away, and was surprised by how...politely the crows waited for her to put food down for them. I got it on video, so you can watch, too:-))
Did you see how they sat very close to her on the rail, yet didn't harass her in any way? No flapping of wings in her face, nor pecking, nor loud cawing. Two of the three are the big Jungle Crow (the Large-billed Crow--their beaks are a good deal thicker than those of the Carrion Crow, who can be seen right at the end of the video). Well, I was hooked, I tell you. I decided right there to try to find some crows a little closer to home to befriend. Can I get them to recognize me? The test will be, after I think they *do* recognize me, to go to the usual spot wearing a mask (I'm thinking the Oni Mask from Setsubun will do the trick...;-) and see whether they still come or not.
Next installment: A Group of Crows Found
Bernd Heinrich's Mind of the Raven
Corvid Cognition (N. Clayton and N. Emery; Current Biology, Vol 15, No3, R80)
Can Animals Recall the Past and Plan for the Future? (N. Clayton, T. Bussey, A. Dickinson; Neuroscience Vol 4, Aug 2003, pp. 685-691)
Mata asobou, ne!