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Quoth the Crow, the Ravens, & the Magpies

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Why Neuroscientists Need to Study the Crow. The animals of neuroscience research are an eclectic bunch, and for good reason.

Why Neuroscientists Need to Study the Crow

Different model organisms—like zebra fish larvae, C. elegans worms, fruit flies, and mice—give researchers the opportunity to answer specific questions. The first two, for example, have transparent bodies, which let scientists easily peer into their brains; the last two have eminently tweakable genomes, which allow scientists to isolate the effects of specific genes. For cognition studies, researchers have relied largely on primates and, more recently, rats, which I use in my own work. But the time is ripe for this exclusive club of research animals to accept a new, avian member: the corvid family. Corvids, such as crows, ravens and magpies, are among the most intelligent birds on the planet—the list of their cognitive achievements goes on and on—yet neuroscientists have not scrutinized their brains for one simple reason: They don’t have a neocortex.

Ravens Know When Food-Thieving Rivals Are Watching. In Norse mythology, two ravens named Huginn and Munnin — "Thought" and "Memory" — employ these faculties as Odin's emissaries, acting as the god's eyes and ears on Earth and reporting back to him about whatever they observe.

Ravens Know When Food-Thieving Rivals Are Watching

Even in common ravens, problem-solving, decision-making and remembering past experiences are traits that scientists recognize as highly developed. Now scientists have found that ravens seem to know when they're being watched by a rival that might steal from them, and then take steps to hide their food. Previous behavior studies with scrub jays, which are raven relatives, showed that they could interpret other bird's thieving intentions — if they spied another jay watching them while they had food, they hid the food away. But the scientists behind the new study wondered — did the jay with the food really know what the rival bird was "thinking? " Maybe it simply followed the other bird's gaze to conclude that it meant to steal from them. Complex interactions. Cat Picks On Crow, Gets Trollololololed Instead. How to Tell a Raven From a Crow. This story comes to you through a partnership between Audubon and BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.

How to Tell a Raven From a Crow

Go here to hear the podcast You’re outside, enjoying a sunny day when a shadow at your feet causes you to look up. A large, black bird flies over and lands in a nearby tree. You wonder: is that a crow or a raven? These two species, common ravens and American crows, overlap widely throughout North America, and they look quite similar. You probably know that ravens are larger, the size of a red-tailed hawk. Listen closely to the birds’ calls. We’re back looking up at that tree. That’s a raven. Australian Magpie Playing. The Secret Lives of Tool-Wielding Crows.

What's the best way to find out what crows living in the South Pacific really do when people aren't watching?

The Secret Lives of Tool-Wielding Crows

Equip them with mini-cameras and have them make their own home-, er, nest-movies, of course. University of Oxford zoologists are hoping that this hands-off approach to studying New Caledonian crows—aka Corvus moneduloides—will lead to a wealth of information about these infamous aviators, known to be one of the few nonhuman species to use tools to accomplish daily tasks. These birds are particularly difficult to observe in their natural habitat, because they are sensitive to human disturbance and live in forested, mountainous areas of New Caledonia—a Pacific island east of Australia, roughly the size of New Jersey—where visibility is limited. But researchers report in the online edition of Science that they captured on video the birds using sticks, grass and stems to forage for food. "One of our main goals with this was to observe natural, undisturbed behavior," Rutz says.

Secret Life of Crows(full documentary)HD. 8-Year-Old Girl Receives Gifts From The Crows She’s Been Feeding Since She Was 4. Every once in a while, Gabi Mann, an 8-year-old girl who lives in Seattle, gets a small, special gift delivered to her home.

8-Year-Old Girl Receives Gifts From The Crows She’s Been Feeding Since She Was 4

She saves every one she can because they’re from a very special group of friends – the local crow population, which brings her shiny trinkets as gifts in thanks for feeding them since she was 4. These ‘gifts’ consist of buttons, LEGO pieces, scraps of metal, and even a heart-shaped bead. Once, Gabi even got a piece of metal with the word “best” on it.

They might not seem like much, but they are Gabi’s most valuable collection. More info: BBC When 8-year-old Gabi fed the crows in her neighborhood… …they began to thank her with gifts! These ‘gifts’ consist of buttons, LEGO pieces, scraps of metal, and even a heart-shaped bead. They bring anything shiny that would fit in their beaks Gabi has a collection of precious gifts and labels her favorites Once, Gabi even got a piece of metal with the word “best” on it.