Crows are smart… like, really smart

Written by: Emily Weigel

Primary Source: Choice Words with Choosy_Female

This week in Animal Behavior, we’re talking about learning and cognition. One of my favorite things at this point is to shatter the misconceptions about what ‘smart’ is, and let students compete in similar tasks to test species. This helps to point out many species are incredibly good at solving puzzles– sometimes even better than us.

Great videos exist to show animal brain power, including that of a recent study that has shown crows are capable of thinking analytically. Here, crows were given pairs of symbols (and other like objects) with certain relationships to one another, and then required to pick the solution with the same relationship. The crows solved these problems rapidly. And, perhaps it was sleepiness or overthinking on my part, but the crows solved the problems initially faster than me. Play and pause the video and see how you do (…and whether you want to use my excuses).

So, in a lot of ways, being bird-brained might actually be a good thing. Many birds, including starlings and bowerbirds, have been shown to do incredibly smart tasks beneficial in foraging and mating. I’m always amazed by what they can do!

Because I feel like crows have somewhat a bad reputation (maybe Poe or Hitchcock is to blame), I’m posting two more videos of crows doing awesome things right here. Enjoy!

General video (3 min.) of crows solving other tasks:

Shorter (1min) solving 8 puzzles!:

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Emily Weigel
Emily Weigel (@Choosy_Female) is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Zoology and in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program at Michigan State University. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a focus on interdisciplinary research from the Georgia Institute of Technology. At MSU, Weigel conducts research in the lab of Dr. Jenny Boughman and is affiliated with the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. Her dissertation research focuses on how female choice and investment interact with male mating strategies. Additionally, Weigel’s education research asks how and why a background in genetics affects student performance in evolutionary biology. When not researching, Weigel enjoys playing soccer, surfing Netflix, and promoting STEM in the community.
Emily Weigel

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