Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Crow Remembers

We all know that some birds are smart, and Corvidae, the cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds that contains the crows, ravens, rooks and magpies are especially so. The birds have excelled in mirror tests--demonstrating high cognitive ability, and they also possess tool-making ability.

A recent study shows that crows remember the faces of threatening humans, and would subsequently react by scolding and prompting other crows to mock the threatening humans. Given that crows have impressive memories, people who ruffle the feathers of these birds could experience years of retribution.

Image: kaweahoaks.com
1) The researchers donned the rubber mask of a caveman before trapping, banding and releasing seven crows.
Image: thisnext.com
2) The researchers wore either this 'dangerous' mask or a neutral one (they used Dick Cheney's face--I'll react if I were one of those crows) and observed as they walked along the college paths, how the flock of crows reacted.

Verdict: The caveman mask prompted the birds into a collective response to a threat. They cawed and screeched, angrily flapped their wings and flicked their tail to warn of the danger, a behaviour called scolding.

But the Cheney mask elicited no response.
Image: treehugger.com
When the researchers later put on other masks while traveling to different areas, crows that were never captured immediately recognized the "dangerous face," illustrating how these birds learned through social means and not as a result of direct experience. Both relatives and strangers joined in the scolding and mobbing, which could occur over a mile away from the original incident.

The study shows the memory lasts at least five years and counting. Wild crows can live 15-40 years in the wild, so if you ever anger a crow in your teenage years, they'd still be aiming for you even when you're 40.

Conclusion: Never anger a crow.


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