Intelligence is a hallmark
of the crow family. This diverse group includes more than 120 bird species. As with many geniuses, crows as well as their relatives are often misunderstood.
This family is also known as corvids. It includes crows and ravens. The dwarf jay is a tiny forest bird that can be found in Mexico and the common raven is a wily opportunist that can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
Corvids are intelligent and have the highest
brain-to-body ratios of all birds. However, those from the genus Corvus are more brainy. The genus Corvus is home to about a third all species of corvids. It includes the ravens and crows as well as the rooks and jackdaws. Many of these species have the brain-
to-body ratio (or “encephalizationquotient”) that you would expect from an ape. According to a study published by the journal Current Biology “The crow brain has the same relative size as the brain of a chimpanzee.” Bird Flying
Crows and ravens are well-known to humans
. This is evident in folklore that has been passed down for centuries. It has been described as thieves, tricksters, problem solvers or wise advisors to gods. We tend to stereotype birds and dismiss their complexity,
making them spooky or troublesome. Research into the brainpower of corvids has helped us appreciate their intelligence more. Below is a selection of the information we have learned about corvids’ mental and social lives. We are focusing on crows, but include ravens and other family members.
Crows have clever ways to get food
Crows are creative and opportunistic. They often find new food sources and adopt new feeding strategies to simplify their lives. As you can see, the American Crow is well-known for catching its own fish.This species can also steal food from other animals and sometimes follow their victims back to their food caches or nests.
One case involved a group of American Crows distracting a river Otter to steal its fish, according the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Another group followed common mergansers in order to intercept the minnows that the ducks were chasing into shallower water.
Crows are known to drop hard-shelled nuts and snails from the sky while they fly, using gravity and ground as their help. Other birds do this, but some crows appear to go a step further. For example, Japanese crows place walnuts on roads to crush them, and then wait for the traffic lights to change so that they can safely take the nut.
Crows don’t just use tools; they also make them
Jane Goodall, a primatologist, shocked the world in the 1960s when she discovered that wild chimpanzees used twigs to catch termites. This proved that humans were not the only species that use tools. Although tool use requires a certain amount of cognitive sophistication, we now know that many other animals use tools in the wild. This is not only true for primates. The New Caledonian Crow is one of the best examples of non-primate tool usage.
While many corvids can use tools, the New Caledonian Crows are more advanced than others. They use sticks and other plant matter to catch insects from crevices, much like chimps. This alone is remarkable, especially if you don’t have hands. But it’s only one of many tricks they have. New Caledonian Crows not only choose tools that are well-shaped for the task at hand, but they also make tools in the wild. This is more rare than using found objects. These tools can be made from twigs, leaves and thorns.