Ravens, Crows and Magpies

I’m one of those people who loves crows, ravens and other members of the Corvidae  family. I know many folks find them creepy and rather gross because they are scavengers, and it is a little unnerving having them fix you with their beady stare, head slightly cocked, as if sizing you up for their next lunch.

But, as this delightful video shows, they’re bright, funny and perfectly capable of cooking up their own entertainment in a moment of boredom.

He even figures out when he tries to go down the other side that the ridge is in his way and switches back to his original ski run.  Scientists studying crows and ravens are “discovering” what observers of the birds could have told them all along:  these birds are bright and they can think and reason – or plot, depending on your point of view.  They know how to drop pebbles into a bottle of water to bring the water level up high enough they can get a drink and they can fashion a branch into a tool to root out grubs among other things.

At the West Entrance to Yellowstone Park, I watched from the station one day as two ravens landed in the middle of the snowmobile trail with their prize, a cheese sandwich in a plastic bag.  The’d probably swiped it from the saddlebags on a snowmobile – they’ve become quite adept at that feat, too.  This was one of those bags from pre-Zip-Lok days, which had a flap you folded over the sandwich, then a second flap you pulled down over the top.  The ravens obviously knew what they were dealing with, it was just a matter of their trying to figure out where the flap was and which way to pull to get it out. One raven would hold down the bag while the other would peck and pull at the other end.  Working together, it took them about 10 minutes to figure out the right combination and free the sandwich.  Then, of course, the fight began to see who got the reward.

Last summer, right after a rainstorm, I passed a field where a large puddle of water had gathered in a low spot.  It was full of a dozen or so crows. I wondered what they were after, but as I watched it was apparent they were simply playing in the water.  Several were sloshing back and forth, splashing water all over, and I could almost hear my mother yelling at me “get out of the puddle, look what you’re doing to your shoes.”  One crow was body surfing.  He’d start at one end of the puddle and hop as fast as he could, then throw his wings out and flop into the water, pushing himself as far as he could go.  Then he’d bob up, turn around and go back the other way.  I stopped to watch, and like a bunch of little kids caught doing something they shouldn’t, the crows all immediately stopped what they were doing and stared at me.

Has anyone else had any interesting experiences with crows, ravens or any other birds that they’d like to share?  I’d love to hear about them.


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9 Responses to Ravens, Crows and Magpies

  1. Pingback: Lets Get Random - Laird Sapir

  2. Gren Drake says:

    My only experiences with crows is the way they gathered in the dozens at the last place I worked, usually all gathered just outside the main entrance. I’ve always thought a lot of people underrated the intelligence of animals, especially the less charismatic.

    By the way, the video you included seems to have been removed.

    • admin says:

      Gren, thanks letting me know the video was removed. According to YouTube, it was taken down for copyright issues. If its available again, I’ll re-post the link. Crows can be intimidating in a group. I always wonder what they’re discussing! After watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” I still find myself getting nervous when there are large gatherings of any kind, but crows and ravens seem even more intimidating.

  3. Liv Rancourt says:

    For Christmas this year, my daughter asked for a taxidermied crow. Yeah. She’s 13. We got her a rubber one from Archie McPhees. And she’s a soccer-playing Catholic school kid – with some underlying gothic tendencies, I guess.
    Helen, I’m a fellow #WANA112 student, and in the interest of building relationships, I nominate you for The Versatile Blogger award. Check out my blog post (http://bit.ly/A6lup4) to see the award and read some instructions that go with it.

    • admin says:

      Liv, Thanks for your comments on crows, and for the Versatile Blogger award. I’m honored! I know there are some things that go with it, so I’ll get them taken care of today.

      My cousin’s son-in-law is an Edgar Allan Poe lover, so for Christmas this year she gave him a beautiful ceramic raven on a skull. I’m not so fond of the skull, but the raven is the most lifelike I’ve seen.

  4. I didn’t know birds could think of entertaining themselves in such a way! Thanks for posting that.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for taking time to visit, and for commenting. If you ever get bored (I know, who has time?) a search for crows on YouTube turns up some interesting video on all the things they can do.

  5. James Jones says:

    Hi There Admin,
    In addition to your post I was wondering, Is it possible to have a crow as a pet here in Australia? I raised a magpie when I was younger. These birds are simply gorgeous, and very smart. I know that in some states, you must have a wild bird license, is that so in NSW?–a lot of the information I’ve found is VERY misleading, if not down-right confusing. And where would one go to adopt/purchase a crow or raven? Any information appreciated. Thanks in advance. :)

    • admin says:

      Hi, James, and thanks for taking time to read my post. Since I live in Idaho (western United States) I’m not sure about the answer to your question of keeping a crow as pet. I understand they can make good, if rather mischievous, pets and can even learn to talk. Do you have any pet shops nearby? They’d probably be able to tell you whether you can legally keep one or not and even be able to get one for you. I did a Google of “crows pet shops New South Wales” and came up with some listings and even some rescue mentions, so you might try that as well. Here in Idaho we have a Department of Fish and Game responsible for controlling and licensing that sort of activity. If you have a similar agency in NSW they could also probably tell you if you need a license or permit of any kind.

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