Crows Are Brilliant. Especially When They Make Their Own Tools (Video)

crows are brilliant photo

Photo via SqueakyMarmot via Flickr CC

Crows are one of my most favorite animals, in no small part because they're completely underestimated. Oh sure parrots get all the attention for their braininess, plus they have that whole longevity and lovely plumage going for them. But crows...they're ridiculously smart. And scientists have seen how wild crows use tools in the process of food gathering. But Betty, one crow being researched by an Oxford team, showed just how handy (er...beaky) they can be with creating tools specific to the task. Check out this video of some spontaneous tool making by a crow.

From the article at PhysOrg:

This video was made during previous experiments. In the Brevia section of the 9 August 2002 issue of Science, Weir et al. report a remarkable observation: The toolmaking behavior of New Caledonian crows. In the experiments, a captive female crow, confronted with a task that required a curved tool (retrieving a food-containing bucket from a vertical pipe), spontaneously bent a piece of straight wire into a hooked shape -- and then repeated the behavior in nine out of ten subsequent trials.

For an understanding of just what this means, we have to realize that these New Caledonian crows are doing something that we consider to be a human trait, and one critical to "higher" evolution. Sequential tool use is something we see both in humans and a few primate species...but we're now also seeing it in these crows.

Makes the movie Birds that much more freaky now, doesn't it?

And as a little bonus, here's a video I caught quite awhile ago that completely made my jaw drop. Crows seem to be one of the animal species doing just fine at adapting to humans taking over natural environments. Here, crows use cars to crack nuts in cross walks, and wait for the light to change so they can safely collect the meat.

On a Friday, it's nice to hear about successful species, rather than the latest addition to the endangered species list, right? Here's more good news to mull over:

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