clever-corvus

I love crows. You’ll be hard pressed to find another bird with such varied portfolio. It’s not difficult to understand why: Over the ages, the blackbird (to lump the dark corvids under a common term) has appeared in all manner of stories, fables, and poetry. From Aesop’s proud boaster to Poe’s looming messenger, the blackbird has become an analog to our own foibles and mannerisms.

A little while back, a video began to make its way around the internet. Russian in origin, it showed a lone hooded crow using a round piece of plastic as a makeshift sled. Now, before this, I had heard anecdotal accounts of crow mischief and play engagement, and I was very familiar with some of their other traits that I detailed in the comic above, which include a surprising show of intelligence. But the snowboarding Russian crow got me really digging, and I thought I’d compile the complexities of the common corvus into comic form. Let’s start with our winter thrill-seeker.

Joanna Wimpenny, a University of Sheffield zoologist, led the study at Oxford that observed New Caledonian crows not only using tools (they often use sticks in the wild to get food) but making tools of their own. She and zoologist Alex Kacelnik have been doing a great deal of research on the cognitive abilities of New Caledonian crows.

Then there’s Julian, my favorite example. He’s a raven living at the Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation and Education Center in Ashford, Connecticut. As a permanent resident, he has picked up an impressive repertoire of vocalizations—copying his various keepers.

He was found with a severely broken and infected wing which left him flightless. He stays with us as an educational bird to help bring awareness to the public of the environment around us. He has picked up a few phrases that he hears us say.

And of course, the “Say Nevermore” raven. Yes, that was not some sort of cute joke. Some wiseguy tried to teach his raven to say “Nevermore,” but since they are mimics, the bird replies in a way that would make the Marx Brothers proud. Also, Fozzie the Bear.

This post was brought to you by Erbium (Er).

Okay, one more. This one is great.