Some birds are pretty intelligent and really do have a lot to crow about
Out walking the dog the other day, I noticed a crow on the path ahead of us, pecking at chunks of bread thrown out by a householder.
It saw us, spent a while cramming as many pieces of bread into its beak as it could manage, then flapped up to the roof of the nearest house.
Where it dropped the bread into the gutter, as a safe place it wouldn’t slide off. It then started eating at its leisure.
After we’d walked past, I looked back and it was checking to see if all was clear to fly down to the remaining bread on the path.
Ok, other birds deserve the reputation
If that doesn’t seem especially clever, contrast it with a pheasant I encountered on a country lane some years ago.
I had to brake (nothing behind me) to avoid hitting it. The bird then ambled off the road to where there was a chicken-wire fence. And tried to get through it. Its head went through one of the ‘holes,’ but of course, that was all. It moved along a little, and tried again. And again.
A true ‘bird brain,’ it didn’t have the wit to realise: “This is never going to work. I should try somewhere else.”
I’ve seen crows working together at a motorway service station, pulling at a bin liner to make it easier to get at the rubbish (including food) inside, without having to take the risk of jumping down to the bottom.
And there are lots of clever crows in scientific videos online, such as this BBC Earth one.
Corvids are smart cookies
Do a search on ‘bird intelligence’ and you get all sort of scientific articles, and at least a general agreement that the corvids (crows, rooks, jackdaws, ravens) are among the cleverest.
I’m particularly fond of jackdaws, having taught three to fly. I called the first Sooty, because he (or she, I’m no expert!) fell out of his nest in next door’s chimney, landing in their grate in a cloud of soot.
Cutting to the end of the story (and with a huge dollop of ‘Born Free’ involved!) and he started spending more and more time out doing his own thing. Until one day, he flew into the house one last time and sat on the stairs. He then sat on top of the aviary a minute or two, before flying off. I never saw him again and the stairs moment was perhaps his way of saying goodbye.
The second jackdaw I rescued from the middle of the road: older than Sooty, but still too young to fly. The ‘obvious’ name for him/her was Sweep (if you don’t get the reference, it’s from a children’s TV show) and again, after flying lessons up and down our long hall, eventually he returned to the wild: ignoring the food I left out for him.
Number three had to be called Soo. I rescued her (or him) from the attentions of a cat. Soo found flying a bit harder to master, and there was a crazy incident one day that ended with me having to rescue her from the pond, but she, too flew my temporary ‘nest’ when ready.
The only photos I have of pre-digital: I stuck to a film SLR for years. So, the main picture is of a brilliant bird – one that’s got bags of character.
Australians call it the purple swamp hen, New Zealanders call it the pukeko. And I defy anyone seeing it stomping about in a park or anywhere without smiling.