CrowFest: winter frolics and pan thievery

As we all know, crows and their close relatives are awesomely smart. If you doubt that, read Bernd Heinrich’s wonderful book Ravens in Winter. Certainly crows exceed in cognitive achievement invertebrates like, say, cephalopods.

Here are two videos showing the behavior of these curious and mischievous birds.

The first has a Russian title that reader Sameer translates as “stoned crows”, but I doubt they’re stoned (for one thing, they’re not eating). It looks like pure play behavior, and it appears as if the crows are having a grand old time frolicking in the snow, rolling around in it, picking up chunks, and sliding down windshields.

Now I don’t think that the crow in this next video is untying shoelaces because he wants the guy to relinquish the prized frying pan (crows aren’t that smart, are they?), but the pan is lagniappe for this corvid:

h/t: Jim E. Yam

20 Comments

  1. Brad
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    The crow in that 2nd video must have a low opinion of the intelligence of us humans!

    “That biped has seen me trying to steal his Shiny Metal Device a couple times, but he keeps letting me untie his shoelaces and doesn’t double knot them! Doesn’t even try to walk away let alone fly away! How silly must he be.”

  2. Allen
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Crows making snow balls and snow angels? What’s this world coming too?

  3. Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    The crows in both videos, by the way, are hooded crows (Corvus corone cornix; sometimes considered a full species). The gray on the back and belly is a little hard to distinguish in the first video, but if you enlarge it to full screen you can see it.

  4. gbjames
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Another book worth a read is Bernd Heinrich’s The Mind of the Raven. Corvids are cool.

    • gbjames
      Posted February 24, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      and sub

  5. Notagod
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Yay corvids!

    read Bernd Heinrich’s wonderful book Ravens in Winter.

    Thanks for the pointer, I buyded a used one.

    • Marella
      Posted February 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Not available on Kindle but I bought The Mind of the Raven instead by the same author. I hope it’s as good.

      • BilBy
        Posted February 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        John Marzluff has written good stuff on crows too – he was a student of Heinrich’s. I first knew of Heinrich when I did my degree and a project on bees – he wrote ‘Bumblebee Economics’, which, despite the dry title is a great book. He’s a very good writer.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 24, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

          Actually, I think that’s a rather droll title. :)

          I’ve enjoyed his work off and on throughout my adult life, it seems. He’s an interesting mix of old-style curious naturalist, independent researcher, nature writer, even a bit of an artist–I like his illustrations from field notes/observations.

      • Notagod
        Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        Mind of the Raven has been recommended before on this website, including by GBJames and steve oberski so I expect that you’ve made a good choice. Next time Jerry posts on corvids I hope to see your assessment.

        I’ve run out of space for dead tree books so I also need to make the switch to electron based books but I’m not sure which reader to jump in with. I wish they were all compatible and Dawkins only has his The Magic of Reality available for the ipad so it’s all a bit difficult to choose, and ipads are so expensive when I only really need it to see Dawkins’ doings.

        • bric
          Posted February 25, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

          Get a Nexus 7, you can run Kobo and Kindle apps on it, plus a very good independent reader called Moon Reader which copes very well with pdfs. Magic of Reality is on Kobo for £6.49 btw

          • Notagod
            Posted February 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for the information I’ll check them out. The Moon Reader might be what I am looking for.

            The Magic of Reality I was thinking of is a made for ipad version that adds some interactive goodies, it still doesn’t seem to be available for anything but ipad. :(

  6. Nal
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Certainly crows exceed in cognitive achievement invertebrates like, say, cephalopods.

    Let the games begin.

  7. Filipe
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Around here we have a bunch of corvids but they spend their days harassing squirrels and making an incredible amount of noise, never seen anything particularly smart from them.

    The most impressive stuff I’ve seen from corvids was the New Caledonian crow making tools and using them.

  8. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Now I don’t think that the crow in this next video is untying shoelaces because he wants the guy to relinquish the prized frying pan (crows aren’t that smart, are they?)

    I’m not so sure. The first time the crow tugs at the shoelace seems fairly random. But subsequent tugs seem pretty clearly aimed at getting the guy to set down the pan. You can see the bird tugging and then looking up at the pan in the guy’s hand, and making a beeline for the pan as soon as it touches down.

    So whether or not that was the original intent, the crow learned pretty quickly that there was a shiny reward to be had for tugging.

    • Marella
      Posted February 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      I thought the same thing. Also I’d like to know if the crow has done this before, he seems to have had some practice.

  9. Diane G.
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    In the first vid, I think I see some sort of–berries, perhaps?–in the snow that the crows might be going for.

    In the second it is especially interesting that in a few instances the crow knows to lift the pantleg in order to get to get to the laces.

    Fun stuff!

  10. Golkarian
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Crows are tricky to figure out, our animal behavior prof showed us a Attenborough documentary that claimed that they used cars to crack nuts, but then gave us a reading assignment with a paper that pretty much disproved this (they didn’t seek out cars just hard surfaces like roads).

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted February 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      This freely available paper? Nice bit of work, but of course they didn’t prove a negative universal. Crows might use cars to crack nuts at other times and places…

  11. M'thew
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    As far as I’m concerned the busiest crow in vid 1 is taking a snow bath and playing with his snow duckie.

    Yay for corvids!


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