Tuesday, June 06, 2017

"Secret Life of Crows": the most intelligent of all birds have human-like social structures and ability make and use tools and pass on knowledge


Secret Life of Crows”, directed by Susan Fleming, a PBS Documentary on the AM Channel, 55 minutes, is a fascinating documentary on the intelligence of crows.


The film is shot around Seattle, New Zealand and Japan. In Seattle, biologists tag four young crows.  Only one survives six months.  But that crow demonstrates he has been taught by his parents to recognize a mask of a “bad” person.

Crows have family units and extended families and seem to pass on detailed knowledge to offspring.  Crows also teach each other in a flock who is an enemy and who is a friend. They are a kind of biological social media.    Only chimpanzees, elephants, and dolphins (including orcas) can pass along as much information socially (besides man).

The film makes the point that ominivores (animals who eat everything) have more need for brain power, which may be one reason the crow evolved a relatively large and complex brain.

The film showed the crows making tools with other tools.  They can learn to drop walnuts from the right height and watch traffic lights.

On the day of Hurricane Sandy, before the strongest winds came through, a particular crow drove me back inside the garage twice, as if to warn me of the storm.  The crow, whom I call Timo, still seems to recognize me.  I have been chosen by a wild animal out of his own free will.  He may learn to respond to his name.  Yet I don’t have to take care of him.  He can fly without going through the TSA.  He thinks he has a better life than I do.

Crows have different sounds and “words” among family members than in the flock as a whole. They have different warnings for different enemies, and cats can sometimes kill them.

I once had an experience with a mockingbird who always recognized me.  There is also a red fox in the area who acts like he remembers me.

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