Monday, October 25, 2010

One of my professors at Willamette, Dr. David Craig, was involved in a study at the University of Washington whose goal was to research a crow's ability to recognize individual human faces as a measure of its intelligence. A segment documenting the researcher's efforts just aired on PBS. 

Here is a quick summary: A Murder of Crows

Crows live everywhere in the world except Antarctica and are a part of myths and legends in many cultures. Their reputation in the stories varies from comical to frightening, godlike or wise, bringers of light and bringers of death, though a “murder” of crows refers to a flock of crows, and not to anything murderous, at all. They may be all these things, but what we are learning is that they are especially smart.
New research has shown that they are among the most intelligent animals on the planet. They use tools as only elephants and chimpanzees do, and recognize 250 distinct calls. One particular talent they have been discovered to possess is the ability to recognize individual human faces and pick them out of a crowd up to two years later – a trick that might make even Hitchcock shiver with fright.
They thrive wherever people live and have used their great intelligence to adapt again and again to a constantly changing world. Some memorize garbage truck routes, and follow the feast from day to day. Others drop nuts in the road and wait for passing cars to crack them open. And some build their nests from items we throw away – like wire clothes hangers.
Watch the video here and see a flickr album of photos from the shoot:



Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

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