These Smart Crows Clean Up the Litter at French Park

Public Domain. maxpixel

Not that they should have to do our dirty work, but there are lessons to be learned from these clever corvids.

Crows are smart. They make and use tools, they can reason about cause and effect, they solve puzzles and can even remember people who have done them wrong. And now the latest talent to add to their bag of tricks? They can pick up the litter that dumb humans leave scattered about.

Specifically, a flock of six rooks have been trained to pick up cigarette butts and other trash at an historical theme park, Puy du Fou, in the Vendée region of Western France. (Where people still smoke cigarettes, who knew?)

Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) belong to the Old World crow family of Corvidae – and like other members of the family, they have many starring roles in folklore. They are said to be able to forecast weather and to sense the approach of death. By some accounts, rooks are responsible for escorting the souls of the virtuous dead to heaven ... or as in the case of France, escort trash to the bin.

So is it fair to be asking crows to pick up after people?

Nicolas de Villiers, whose father opened the fantastical living history theme park in 1978, says that there is a bit of a lesson to be learned.

"The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean" but also to show that "nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment," he tells AFP.

He adds that they are "particularly intelligent" and "like to communicate with humans and establish a relationship through play."

The park attracts more than 2 million visitors annually, making it the second most popular theme park in France after Disneyland Paris. Below, behold the Viking show.

Crows litter

PIERRE ANDRE LECLERCQ | Les vikings Le Puy du Fou Les Epesses, Vendée, France/CC BY 2.0

For their efforts, the birds will be rewarded with a prize from a treat-dispensing box each time they deposit a piece of trash. Which makes me wonder: These birds are so smart, what happens when they start littering on their own in an effort to earn more treats?

Via Quartz