Creating tools, solving complex problems, and gathering around their deceased — does that sound a little familiar to you?
Crows are known as one of the most ingenious creatures we share the planet with. They’re on a constant loop of observing, reacting, learning and creating new tactics to not only live alongside us but thrive in our man-made environment. So, to just scratch the surface of their intelligence, let’s spend some time learning about what happens in a murder (of crows, of course).
Our first stop is to one of our favorite places in this crazy internet world: The TED stage. On it, is Joshua Klein. He’s a hacker and a writer, but also a man who just wanted to prove a point he made at a cocktail party. So he came up with an experiment to show the intelligence of crows and prove that we shouldn’t wipe them from the face of the planet.
This is one group of animals a lot of people could do without. If that ominous squawking crow wasn’t there, it wouldn’t really affect your day to day life, would it? Humans do have the power to wipe out their populations… but what if we took a completely different route?
They’re intelligent beings, and we’re intelligent beings, so what if we intelligent beings teamed up? We’re living so close together anyway, what could happen if we took advantage of that proximity and combined forces? Could both species benefit?
Partnering with a crow sounds a little crazy—I get it, but just listen to Joshua Klein discuss and demonstrate this possibility and so much more in his awesome talk, then see what you think. You’re going to want to at least watch what Betty, a very cute crow, can do with a wire!
They feel a bit familiar, don’t they?
I know a few people who are just as chatty, just as suspicious, and just as driven by food as these crows are. (Or maybe that last one is just me…) But do we not also warn our peers and our young of possible danger, and give them tips on how best to avoid it? Don’t we also remember the face of that one kid who took our favorite seat on the bus in the 5th grade to this day? (Looking at you, Dylan.) Or where the edge of the stair is after you’ve tripped up it a few times?
The number of similarities between two completely different species that evolved separately from each other at least fifty million years ago is fascinating. 2 Could it actually be possible that we could combine our intelligence and hack the world to make it work for both of us?
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Klein talked about the following research a bit in his talk, but to take a closer look at the crows’ reactions and their memory, this great video from IN Close shows us more about what researchers (you know, the ones with the creepy masks) are doing to gain a better understanding of crows at the University of Washington and beyond.
You can learn even more about this study by visiting the researcher’s detailed blog, Corvid Research. In it, Kaeli Swift gives us more details about what characteristics they’re studying about the crows and what drives her to keep doing so!
Want to see a crow solve an obstacle course?
Thought so! Check out this problem-solving experiment presented to us by the always entertaining, BBC Earth:
Now, what are the possibilities with that?
Going back to Joshua Klein’s last points, if crows have the ability to be trained to complete an obstacle course, what else could they be trained to do? Could they pick up litter? Conduct search and rescue? Maybe even help us defuse a bomb here and there?
They can go places that we can’t, and have abilities that we don’t, so how else could we team up with birds to make the best of our lives together? Because we aren’t going anywhere (at least not anytime soon) and neither are those crows cawing in the tree over there.
Stay open to possibilities!
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein
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- Klein, Joshua. “A Thought Experiment on the Intelligence of Crows.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, TED, Mar. 2008, www.ted.com/talks/joshua_klein_on_the_intelligence_of_crows#t-683595. Accessed 12 June 2018. ↩
- Lieff, Jon. “Only Crows and Humans Can Do It.” Jon Lieff, M.D., Jon Lieff, M.D., 29 June 2015, jonlieffmd.com/blog/human-brain/only-crows-and-humans-can-do-it. Accessed 12 June 2018. ↩
- “Do Crows Mourn? | IN Close.” YouTube, IN Close, 21 Oct. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=344&v=_A-1dqsGrqY. Accessed 13 June 2018. ↩
- “Are Crows the Ultimate Problem Solvers? | Inside the Animal Mind | BBC.” YouTube, BBCEarth, 10 Sept. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbSu2PXOTOc&feature=youtu.be. Accessed 13 June 2018. ↩