Clever corvidae

A very cool Nova episode about animal minds.

If you want a particular highlight start at 8:50 to watch the New Caledonia crow faced with a novel problem it takes 8 steps to solve. The crow has done each step separately before, but never seen them combined. It’s pretty damn fascinating.


  1. shari says

    I caught this one a few weeks ago and it is BRILLIANT! My son had the raven as a research topic at the same time – great timing for Nova!!

  2. michaelraymer says

    Have you seen the crow playing with a makeshift sled that went viral a while back? It’s funny, but also a clear sign of intelligence. The bird knows it can do this, and finds it amusing. That requires a level of cognition I didn’t know birds possessed.

  3. drken says

    This episode is one in a series they’re doing on animal behavior and intelligence. Last week’s program had some good stuff with dogs, sharks, and how sensory perception shapes how we (literally) view our environment. I think next week is on social groups. The Raven episode also has some fascinating stuff on trying to tease out what behavior is instinctual, what is learned, and what is the result of the innovations by individuals using raven tool making as a model. Also, the scientist they have giving most of the explanations has an octopus pin, so I’m sure he’s one of PZ minions. 😉

  4. Shatterface says

    I watched a BBC doc about animal intelligence and there was one test involving a peanut at the bottom of a perspex tube and the presenter spent about 5 minstrel messing around with chopsticks, etc trying to get the nut out before realizing she could tip a bottle of water down the tube and fish it out when it got near the top.

    The chimp took about 30 seconds before spitting water down the tube and grabbing the nut.

    I beat both the presenter and the chimp – but I was perversely happier about beating the chimp!

  5. Ned Hamson says

    Crows are really smart – maybe that’s why Idaho has plans to kill 4,000 of them in the near future. They are saying they want to kill them to protect grouse but I suspect crows have just been picking locks to grain silos and outdoor freezers and after killing all the wolves they can they want to prove manhood by killing crows. How long will it take crows for figure out how to unload rifles or shoot them is not known.

  6. Tessa says

    The coolest New Caledonia crow intelligence experiment I’ve heard of was one where they had 2 crows, a wire with a hook and a straight wire. The food required the hooked wire to get. They were just trying to figure out how long it’d take to figure out which wire was needed. One took the curved wire right away, leaving the the other with the straight one. She took the straight wire and bent it so it had a hook on an end and got her food.

  7. Shari says

    From, “…researchers in Seattle performed an experiment with some crows around their college campus. They captured seven of the birds, tagged them, then let them go. And they did it all while wearing creepy skin masks, because it was funny:

    OK, so the scientists weren’t just playing out horror movie fantasies — they were testing whether the crows could recognize human faces or not. It turns out they can. To a frightening degree: Whenever the scientists walked around campus with the masks on, the crows would “scold” and dive-bomb them… because along with the ability to recognize us as individuals, the researchers also learned that crows can hold a grudge. And pretty soon, it wasn’t just the first seven crows reacting. Other birds, ones that hadn’t even been captured in the first place, started dive-bombing the scientists as well.

    In case you think they were just telling each other “get the guy with the mask,” they weren’t: The test was repeated with multiple people wearing multiple masks, and without fail, the crows left the masked men who hadn’t messed with them alone, but went murder-crazy on the mask that had been worn while messing with them.”

    The title of the article is “6 Terrifying Ways Crows are Way Smarter Than You Think”

  8. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I’ve got most of those episodes on my DVR to watch.

    I managed to miss the first episode of ‘Your inner Fish’, but I have the 2nd and 3rd. Will it ruin it if I watch them first? 🙂

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