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  • Writer's pictureJody Glynn Patrick

How are Crows Like People?

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

Crows have a thinking mind and a memory. Here's how we know that:

At a university bio center studying crows, they had students wear scary masks walk under nests for a few days and nothing happened. Then, a person wearing a mask threatened a nest. Immediately, the student was mobbed (flown at) by mad crows -- all the crows around. A year later, another student wearing that scary mask was attacked by even more crows; the knowledge was passed along. Even 10 years later, the sight of the scary mask was enough to incite an even larger flock to attack the wearer.

Lots of research has been done about crow problem-solving skills and amazing communication skills. For example, whenever a crow encounters a mean human, it will teach other crows how to identify the human. In fact, research shows that crows don’t forget a face -- and respond accordingly to mean or kind human beings.

Crows are very social. They have been documented as playing games while flying with other birds. They also hold funerals for other crows and if they find out why the bird died, and it's a human or predator, they will "mob" that attacker. They can use tools. They stand on ant hills and let ants crawl on them, and then rub them into their feathers because ants eat parasites.

Crows are cooperative breeders -- they stay close to the place where they were born and help raise and defend the area’s young chicks. The female lays four to five eggs and incubates them for 18 days. At four weeks, the chicks are able to leave the nest, though their parents still feed them until they are around 60 days old. Crows can live up to 14 years.

This guy, pictured above, cawed to me and landed nearby. We had quite the conversation. Researchers think that when they caw to you with no other crows around (so it isn't a warning to others), it is to try and establish a relationship with you or convey a message to you. They also will bring you a gift -- one kept taking soda can pull tabs that it found and threading pine twigs through it for a family it loved, and leaving the gifts on their doorstep.

When I was afraid of birds, I really disliked crows. Now, I find them interesting and even beautiful, intelligent creatures.

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