About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crows: Are they Feathered Apes?

An American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), take...Image via WikipediaAs Halloween approaches you may be seeing fake crows used as decorations in frightful displays. But even though cultures around the world may regard the crow as a bad omen or a nuisance, this bad reputation might overshadow what could be regarded as the crow’s most striking characteristic – its intelligence.

In recent studies researchers have found that the birds can recognize individual human faces that pose a threat out of thousands of people. Dr. John Marzluff a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington did the first formal study of human face recognition in wild birds by asking the people banding crows to wear rubber "bad men" masks.

American crow -- Corvus brachyrhynchos Martine...Image via WikipediaAfter the birds were banded and released back on campus, volunteers walked around with the masks on and recorded the crows’ reactions in the following months. The birds did not forget and were very vocal about the supposed “bad men”. In fact the effect not only persisted, but has multiplied over the past two years. Dr. Marzluff found the “bad men” were scolded by many more crows than had experienced the initial trapping. The researchers hypothesize that crows learned the face of the “bad men” and spread the word through the flock.

Dr. Marzluff believes that this ability gives crows and their brethren an evolutionary edge. “If you can learn who to avoid and who to seek out, that’s a lot easier than continually getting hurt,” Dr. Marzluff said. “I think it allows these animals to survive with us — and take advantage of us — in a much safer, more effective way.”

If you missed Nature last night, it was all about crows' intellegence and humans' increased interest in studing them. You can watch PBS's Nature: A Murder of Crows below.

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