Seattle researchers: Crows' big brains are eerily humanlike. "Crows have evolved to have these complex social relationships, and they have a big brain," said Kaeli Swift, a University of Washington graduate student who led the study.

 For nearly every step of his almost 12-mile walk, Darryl Dyer has company. Flocks of crows follow him, signaling each other, because they all know that he's the guy with the peanuts. "They know your body type. The way you walk," Dyer said. "They'll take their young down and say: 'You want to get to know this guy. He's got the food.' "

Scientists for years have known that crows have great memories, that they can recognize a human face and behavior, and can pass that information onto their offspring.

Nowadays, researchers are trying to understand more about the crow's brain and behavior, specifically what it does when the birds see one of their own die. They react loudly to the dead, but the reasons aren't entirely known.

Among the guesses is that they are mourning; given that crows mate for life, losing a partner could be a significant moment for the social animals. There are anecdotes of crows placing sticks and other objects on dead birds - a funeral of sorts.

Using masks that look creepily human, researchers showed up at Seattle parks carrying a stuffed crow. They recorded the reactions. It takes one crow to signal an alarm, and then dozens show up. They all surround the dead crow, looking at it as they perch on trees or fly above it, a behavior called mobbing.

How big of a brain? Crows are on par with smart mammals, like dolphins and primates, in brain-to-body proportion. They have been known to be problem solvers and are among the few animals recorded to use tools.

In another part of the experiment, using slightly radioactive tracers, researchers measured the brain activity of crows after they were shown a dead bird. The scans showed the section of the hippocampus - the part involved in memory formation - light up at the sight of death.

"In that particular situation at least, that crow was learning about a place, or a face, or a situation and associated it with that dead crow," said John Marzluff, the lead researcher.

To Marzluff, this and upcoming research on crows highlight a special relationship humans have with a bird that has thrived in its cities and civilization.

"When you see its brain is using the same parts of the brain to remember things that we do, or to learn fearful situations like we do, maybe it gives you a little more sympathy to the bird, or maybe kinship with the bird," he said.

After scans, birds released  back into the wild

Responses to "Scientists Are Amazed By New Discoveries About Crows"

  1. Anonymous says:

    When they sit together quietly , and have long , drawn out conversations with each other , they look and sound incredibly human.
    Once I opened my door to see a crow perched on my verandah rail . He wolf whistled me , and didn't move , and then I felt he might be the returned spirit of an old flame , who had passed on .

  2. Lell says:

    I feel the crows when I walk my dog, they definitely recognise me now and follow me through the trees until we get to the open plain where I feed them. I find them utterly charming, my dog chases them, jealous they're getting food and he isn't, and they swoop over them sometimes like they're playing with him. Its all a game to both of them I think. Its become the most enjoyable part of our walks.....

  3. carrpin says:

    I am " making friends " with Cracticus tibicen Australian Magpies (no relation to the UK magpie) and they recognise me as a food source and are quite curious and some braver than others. Its afairly new thing but I expect that the bravest will hand feed soon although we are heading into breeding season when they often swoop on passers by near their nests, even inflicting scratches as they swoop.

  4. Amanda says:

    Crows are amazing.....

  5. I feel such Great Gratitude to my Crow Sisters and Brothers. They have come to me on many occasions to teach me Right Relationship. Some Crow relatives befriended me many years ago. They taught me about Sacred, Universal Law. They sat in a tree outside my window when I was lost in a dark place. They cawed and cawed and cawed, until I listened to what they had to tell me. There might have been 20 or 30 of them ~ I was wallowing in my self pity too much to accurately count them. When I FINALLY HEARD what they were telling me, they became silent. I walked outside to thank them. One of them left its body on the ground as a Giveaway Gift. She was still breathing. I sat with her and gently stroked her feathers until she gave up her final breath. I grieved with her family. I also felt very honored. I gave her final blessings and rubbed her with herbs ~ inside and out. I still have her wings and her tail feathers. They remind me of the Blessings I received that day.

  6. Unknown says:

    Could anyone tell me how to let wild crows know that you want to feed them, for starters?

  7. Unknown says:

    Love the crows 💝

  8. Kinsa says:

    Lindsay Groves - Just start putting food out for them. They will observe and figure out that you are the source.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Yes leave the food and walk away. Try and do it in the same place at the same time. Soon they will begin to trust you, and you can stay at a distance to watch them. You have to follow their 'rules' in the beginning: Don't approach them, let them come to you. Don't look right at them, and don't speak to them. As they come to know you and trust you more, you can start relaxing all these rules, until you can act naturally around them. Good luck!

  10. Unknown says:

    I have a group of crows in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. I am a parking attendant and I walk all over the area. 3 or 4 different families know me. One started swooping me about four years ago. It's fun meeting the babies. Crow have taught me a lot of spiritual things, and we play with each other, it feels like it anyway.

  11. Crows are the most beautiful, intelligent beings. I love them. So much. Wherever I move...around to different small towns... I talk to them. They get to know me. And they remember when I come back from being away.

  12. Anonymous says:

    There are so many crows where I now live, many consider them a problem. Planting my garden the first year I moved here was challenging. Crows pulled out seedlings and left them lying on the ground, I replanted several times, and there were news stories of farmers' fields being decimated in this way, with headlines like "A murder of crows". The following winter was severe, with constant snowfall and cruel temperatures. I often fed the crows, throwing bread and grain onto the deep drifts. Groups of the birds swooped down within minutes, even in blizzard conditions. Now, not only is my garden not interfered with, but the crows greet me from the trees when I go outside, and fly down to walk around me to chat while I'm gardening. They are so glossy and beautiful up close.

  13. The Crow Convention

    The crows have convened across the way.
    Big black birds crowousing with each other.

    Hanging out with their crownies.
    Strutting around
    Chris, Charlie, Carlton, Clarence, and Chip.
    Yakking, poking, grabbing and crowoperating.

    They’re holding a convention to decide who will be crowned
    King of the Crows!

    They debate, deliberate and finally designate a leader.
    But, as with humans, EGO gets in the way and no one is really chosen.

    At the end of the day they fly away to their night homes –

    Tomorrow they will convene again – unless it is a Sunday
    when they will congregate.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Every spring I put out hard cat food on an old stump. Blue Jays, magpies and crows come to eat it. Of course if the ravens have not left for the north, they get the biggest amount. But once they are gone, my crows get more. Also after they have their fledglings on the ground, you can put out cat food and the none stop cawing will cease. They hide it in trees and then feed those noisy young. Works very time. People around here shoot them so I try to shut them up.

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