For some strange reason, he named all of his animals Jack, cats, dogs and now crows. So we'd go out in the morning and my grandfather would call out "Jack" and the Dog would come running down the yard, and then next thing you'd see the crow hopping down the yard after the dog. It would arrive and wait for him to pick it up with his hand and it would sit on his shoulder while he fed it nuts and seeds. Jack the dog and Jack the crow would also hang out together and play. It also would be very wary of other visitors and knew to leave the house if it was going to go to the toilet.
This went on for maybe a full year until it decided to just fly off, but throughout that time it really opened my eyes to how smart animals could actually be, and is a really fond memory of mine.
Tangent: this is a handy effect, if you could get it to work, but it’s a bit surprising if it did work: animals have different audible frequency ranges, and, obviously, they’ll only respond to a name they can hear. Dogs and crows might have similar audible ranges (this is suggestive anecdata to that effect!), but I know that the range for cats is slightly higher, such that a name like “jack” wouldn’t even register to them. (You need a name with a close/front vowel sound in it, since humans produce those with a high pitch. Thus why the word “kitty” is thought to exist—it evolved as an optimal call-name! Or you can just “pspsps”, since that also comes out high-enough that cats hear it quite clearly.)
From what you said, there was also a cat named “jack”—did it come when called? If so, did calling it require a second, higher-keyed calling of the name?
Cats are heavily into patterns. My family always had cats and you could see how they craved for everything to be in order. You come home at 5pm, you eat at 6, you watch TV at 7pm, you turn off the TV at 10:35pm, you brush your teeth at 10:40pm and on and on. Cats know and expect your routine to be the same and they seem to love that.
My elderly parents' cat puts my father to bed. Then she goes off to her favourite sleeping spot. My dad's brother comes to visit at 2pm and the cat gets ready for the visit by coming to sit by the chair before my uncle arrives.
My experience disagrees. I often have a back and forth "conversation" with my cat, and she clearly responds to my voice, which is not high pitched.
The cat may be responding to those discrete high frequency sounds, rather than your overall voice.
My partner used to volunteer at the local Wildcare and they had an injured crow resident that they couldn't release named Da Vinci. Da Vinci would always greet visitors with "Hello! How are you? How are you?"
I love crows, they have lots of character if you take time to observe them.
Someone later gave the guy a mynah bird that had a 30 or so word vocabulary. The birds eventually taught each other the words and the cough.
It was pretty funny to walk past that house on a nice day and hear 3 cigarette coughs and hearing the mynah say happy halloween in a sort-of witch voice no matter the time of the year.
It's more likely to happen with parrots (since they can legally be kept as pets and interact with humans more closely), but crows have the brainpower for it.
A subgroup of crows is called a manslaughter
If you want to have one with me, you've got to...ease into it.
I’m also terrible at parties.
My GF and I went to the beach about a month ago and took our dog.
The crows weren't frightened at ALL of our dog. They realized they could basically just 'float' up in the air when he came by using the breeze.
The fact that they were amazingly calm about it was really telling.
Second. We hid our stuff under a blanket. They realize it's still there as they have item persistence. So they lifted up the blanket, went into our bag, then started opening up everything.
They opened up lids. They went through my girlfriends purse. They took out all the items from her purse. They took the socks out of my shoes. They opened plastic containers.
They systematically went through all our belongings.
And BOY did they score. All our dogfood. All of our leftover lunch, etc.
And, damn, they're as good as human thieves at reading situations for opportunism.
I realized that they are probably aware of my lack of attention to my food and that their in-built modeling of other agents had given them an advantage in this situation. I thought it was pretty impressive.
It was a big parking lot outside the gift shop, and some visitor had parked his motorcycle there. Pannier bags on the back.
The raven was sitting on one bag, actively working the zipper open. About a foot of zipper.
Which is pretty impressive, but the more impressive thing was how.
It would worry it for a couple seconds, tugging it a bit farther open, then stop, lift its head, and evaluate its surroundings.
If it didn't see anyone nearby, again with the zipper.
... I gained a new level of respect for corvids that day.
Two of them held the "flap" open, and the third went in for fries. Once they'd made a decent pile on the ground outside the can, they all set in to feast.
Why do programmers talk about living beings in software terminology, it's so clinical and cold. Other species are sentient beings, but for many it helps combat cognitive bias by not thinking of them as such.
Its actually true they do this. Two noted ornithologist's describes it in one of their books on crows:
As ornithologist John M. Marzluff and author Tony Angell noted in their 2005 book In the Company of Crows and Ravens, the calls these birds use "vary regionally, like human dialects that can vary from valley to valley." And there's more: If a crow changes its social group, the bird will try to fit in by talking like the popular guys. "When crows join a new flock," Marzluff and Angell wrote, "they learn the flock's dialect by mimicking the calls of dominant flock members."
Also, it doesn't seem unreasonable to think they would learn to insert a credit card into the machine given that they're good at manipulating sticks and stones and putting them into places.
I've seen a one pull a closed brown lunch bag out of a freshly opened backpack, meaning the knew backpacks probably have food and brown bags are worth stealing and inspecting in detail elsewhere.
Clearly, gulls are the honey badger of the bird world!
They started a game of using McD's french fries as lures to get the beach gulls to swoop in on unsuspecting kids as they were playing... sometimes 20 or 30 gulls at a time.
Felt like dropping spotter rounds for airstrikes.
(No children were harmed, just many french fries tossed instead of consumed.)
search for "seagull thief" videos.
Doorknobs are not ADA compliant any longer, but if you are on a private island with utah-raptors? knobs.
Jackrabbits will be sitting safely in the grass on the side of the road, see you coming, watch until you're about to pass, have a panic attack, and sprint in front of your car just as you pass in order to "escape". I never slow down for crows. They know what they're doing. I slow down for my fellow mammals, jackrabbits, because they're nitwits. All I can say, looking at these birds and these rabbits, is: that asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and took out the competition sure was a lucky break for us.
Except for the crows and the rooks. I keep an eye on them, and keep a foot poised for braking, but I never have to. They stroll, as you describe it, quite nonchalantly out the way, sometimes leaving a walnut for my vehicle to please crush. And here's the thing: They happily stroll into the opposite lane, if - and only if - no cars are approaching from the opposite direction. Complete grasp of the traffic situation, and they hardly ever fail - during the last year, I have seen one dead crow at the roadside; I'm gessing he took cool one step to far.
They understand where the perfect number of cars is gonna be.
Others just dropped them from high altitudes. I suspect the ones on the power lines were just showing off; as much fun as need.
How did you learn arithmetic?
Prey animals are wary and startle easily to reduce their chance of becoming lunch.
Running in almost any direction is an effective means of escape.
Cars are much wider than most predators, meaning many directions end up being bad choices.
I've seen a bird of prey try to dive and swoop low over the land to evade them. They'll follow, some diving down low after it and some at a distance to keep an eye on it, until it's gone.
We basically have a crow air force keeping all the other birds and little mammals safe.
Note: I generally do not advocate purposely messing with animals, but geese are evil! Also don't do this if there are young that might not be able to get out of the way in time.
Might have had some side effects though.
Are these crows inventing the method over and over again independently, like scientists finding the same thing at the same time in different parts of the world? Is this some very basic instinct that the crows evolved into? Are they teaching each other and now the Euro crows using Japanise tech? Fascinating creatures.
On a semi-related note, magpies are also doing really well in that race. End of last year I started leaving oatmeal in a bottle cap on my terrace and every morning a magpie came to eat it every single day over the course of 2 months. And every evening when I came back home I had a handful of sticks, stones and berries left somewhere. No idea what I was supposed to do with them but thanks magpie I guess...
There may well have been multiple independent discoveries, and passing the skill on between individuals and generations has probably made it near-ubiquitous now.
We start bombarding babies with information since a very early age. Parents, are incentivized to teach their babies how to talk, walk, read, write, do stuff, eat, sing, etc... The amount of cognitive exercise is insane. And a human will only be able to "say" something useful until he is 7-8 year old. He's kinda of a "retard" before that. That's 7-8 years of training just to get started.
Then humans get bombarded with education: Math, Physics, Language, Writing, Sports, etc... And they are a strict about going to school and performing well. That would take another 12-15 years of your life to, hopefully, learn something useful to society. Add to that 3-4 years of learning in the job, and a human is only able to bring food to the table after 25-26 years of learning and training.
That's a hell lot of time. No other animals in the wild are given this chance. Let alone their environments and their physical capacities are taken into consideration. We judge animal intelligence by comparing it to our self-architectured modern environment.
tl;dr: Humans might not be smart after all. It might be that we have been lucky that our ancestors have started the ball rolling and we have had enough time during our lifetime to make up for the initial investment of learning.
If by "bring food to the table" you mean "earn a good salary at a very specialised job", maybe -- although 21 years is more like it.
But for literally bringing food to the table, basic survival skills, you're talking more like 8-10 years.
I guess they give presents to people the don't like also :)
In a word, yes.
> Marzluff and two students wore rubber masks. He designated a caveman mask as “dangerous” and, in a deliberate gesture of civic generosity, a Dick Cheney mask as “neutral.” Researchers in the dangerous mask then trapped and banded seven crows on the university’s campus in Seattle.
> In the months that followed, the researchers and volunteers donned the masks on campus, this time walking prescribed routes and not bothering crows.
> The crows had not forgotten. They scolded people in the dangerous mask significantly more than they did before they were trapped, even when the mask was disguised with a hat or worn upside down. The neutral mask provoked little reaction.
> The effect has not only persisted, but also multiplied over the past two years. Wearing the dangerous mask on one recent walk through campus, Marzluff said, he was scolded by 47 of the 53 crows he encountered, many more than had experienced or witnessed the initial trapping.
This is called a murder of crows. I've always found that term odd, and it seems derogatory. I don't know the origin.
I recently heard this used in a podcast and I got distracted by the term and looked up all this nonsense. TIL multiple jellyfish are a "smack"!
My grandmother used to receive that of dead moles, freshly caught mice and what have you, invariably placed dead center on her pillow. She wasn't a fan of that cat before, and she didn't like it much better after. No idea why.
Growing up our family cat brought us a constant stream of rabbits, birds, and moles. It is actually a problem that nobody talks about, because cats are cute.
If there were as many human households with domestic foxes as there are with cats, then foxes would absolutely be considered an unnaturally potent problem for wild rodent and bird species too.
And I've had a fine afternoon tossing a rubber ball that would bounce all around the living and dining room in billiard-style angles, and have an hour or more of lazy returns and rethrows.
We're not sure they're exactly mourning but crows have "funerals" ... it might also be that they're trying to ascertain why they died to avoid a potential threat.
... could be both too.
Who know what other animal intelligence exists today, or in the past.
The current crop of species (us excepted) may not be the smartest to have existed, problem solving intelligence like the crow's could have existed 500 mya as easily as it can now. You don't need mammals, or even necessarily vertebrates.
The first thing I found fascinating in YNH's "Sapiens" was his "start of history" debate. When did people start really standing out from the faunal crowd. He puts this at just around 40 kya.
That is, people were walking around with modern sized & equipped brain hardware for hundreds of thousands of years. They were obviously extremely intelligent. They would have performed as well as us on such intelligence tests.
If sapiens had gone extinct before 40kya, they would have left no indication that their intelligence such potential that it did. They would have just been a smart animal.
What makes us special is persistent collective learning and abstract communication.
Unlike animals, generations of humans don't have to keep re-solving the same problems. As a species we have cumulative persistent memory for techniques and abstractions. That's the real game changer.
But it took a surprisingly long time - tens of thousands of years - for our brains to make this ability central to culture. And there's no guarantee that if we re-ran history we'd do it again on the same scale.
I can read Newton's Principia online, or take an undergrad physics course. His insights are still shaping our world view even though he's been dead for centuries now.
Only humans have worked out how to abstract the intelligence from individuals into lasting communications that don't require face-to-face transmission.
Unfortunately we've only done this about selective topics. Personal relationships and political and economic systems still work relatively badly because they don't have anything equivalent to the cumulative summary, insight, and abstraction processes at the core of science and technology.
Crows have an oral tradition, and so did humans in that time, therefore they're about as equally smart, back then?
No; passing on knowledge isn't quite sufficient. The key difference is our ability to manipulate objects with hands, and our ability to harness external sources of energy, starting with fire.
Cetaceans (in particular orcas and dolphins), chimps, crows, they all are known to develop & pass on language, culture, and knowledge like hunting tricks. Cetaceans, and also octopuses have relatively high intelligence. The former live in long-running packs (pods), and pass on their distinct cultures, language dialects, and hunting habits. The later live with little to no contact with their parents, and have to discover everything from grounds up. Both have been around for much longer than humans. Neither have progressed anywhere near close to having a technological civilization, and are on relatively similar level.
i/o is more important than calculation when it comes to getting things done.
Also, most smart animals have persistent knowledge that they pass from one generation to the other.
We are just smarter than those other animals. Tens of thousands of years ago, humans were already a force not to be messed with. Hell, a million years ago our ancestors were already on the business of extinguishing their predators.
It's sad, but they do exist.
See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child
(thanks boatswain for providing the link in another comment)
That's such a misanthropic statement I don't even know where to begin.
Just sticking to the kinds of structures a human and a crow can build in the wild, it's still obvious to the untrained observer that the human is well beyond the crow in terms of intelligence.
We depend more on our collective intelligence and teachings than you think.
For an instructive example-- a crow's nest of sticks, leaves, etc. Especially if that human comes up happens to come upon a crow's nest in the wild. Notice that the human can probably scale that design to fit their own larger stature.
Now imagine a crow coming upon a little 1x1 dugout crawdad battle arena, or a little lattice-structure of sticks that encloses a caddisfly larva collection of a 9 year old. If you saw a crow observe and then build that you'd have quite a research paper on your hands.
But we're probably going to get stuck in physical differences so let's change the subject and just give both animals a stick.
One of them uses it to extract a morsel of food from a hard to reach area.
The other uses it to mark time according to either the moon cycle or possibly something else that lasts that long. I.e., this animal has created a calendar.
Using historical evidence please tell me which animal performed which feat?
The thing is-- I really do find the intelligence of crows fascinating! I just don't get the desire to pair that with the "human's aren't such hot shit" trope.
An untrained 'wild' human doesn't develop the language facility. Absent that, there's little to distinguish us from another large apex predator.
There have been a few humans raised away from their own kind, not many, but enough to make this observation.
We also don't have to spend 80-90% of our time in a struggle for survival against the elements during this crucial learning period.
Humans in developed countries are typically provided for, while doing the majority of their learning.
For example, the wild, untrained human still has the biological faculty of language.
That is, there is a reason why no animal other than a human has been shown to be able to learn a language. The reason is that they do not have the biological faculty of language.
You suggest that "generations of humans don't have to keep re-solving the same problems/" This is correct, but in many important ways it is not because of our culture or because we learn from our elders. But rather it is because of our genetics.
An example of this is that children who are not taught a language will spontaneously create their own. Normally this won't happen, because children can't survive without adults, and adults will teach the children language. But something very close has happened a few times, an example, in itself far from conclusive, but still illustrative: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaraguan_Sign_Language
_Groups_ of humans with no common means of communication will form pidgins ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pidgin ) as an (essentially grammarless) means of communication; children then raised in an environment where they are exposed to this pidgin will transform it into a true language. Nicaraguan Sign Language has actually proven to be a fascinating example of this in action; many of the first speakers of the original pidgin are, now that successive generations have learned and adapted it, unable to competently produce utterances in the now-language.
That is after successfully having acquired a language already. What the critical period theory suggests is that if no language is acquired during that period, subsequent language acquisition is not possible.
It would be an aberration for a crow’s calls to be arbitrary
- Cave art from 44kya
- 'Venus' statues - some possibly as old as 300k years!!
I agree that the fact intelligence has arisen in wildly separate parts of the 'tree of life' probably indicates something about the likelihood for intelligence to develop elsewhere. Like you said, it's not a fluke, but it's also not something that only arises under very specific progressive conditions.
I'm not sure whether it recedes or not - that's an interesting and slightly terrifying question
General intelligence, by itself, appears to be just one possible strategy for adapting to the environment, not inherently superior considering that many species get along just fine with survival tactics "hardwired" for their environment. But it sure gives faster adaptability and humans had expanded into very diverse environments deep in the stone age.
What eventually set the human brain apart is the old cliche distinction of opposable thumbs. Back to topic, few things illustrate the value of our hands better that watching a crow headbutt an object with its beak, stop to ponder the results, then headbutt again because what other option does it have?
In many environments, the extra intelligence wouldn't allow you to find enough extra food for the trait to be worthwhile.
I honestly wonder how they can find enough food, there are so many of them.
I don't think they would exist in such large numbers without us, basically.
Very smart but obnoxious in a way.
Just found this on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Y0xwX5iOFok
But I have seen a cat trotting along a wire fence with a concrete base. On that base, which was about the cat's height there was a hooded crow happily scuttering behind the cat and grabbing at its tail from time to time.
The cat mostly ignored it but it was apparent that it judges the chances of catching the pesky bird.
Dolphins (including orca) do, primates do, the article says crows do. Cats and dogs do too.
It never stops being funny to me
Skiing down a roof: https://youtu.be/1WupH8oyrAo
My girlfriend's spirit animal: https://youtu.be/Qt-pB1R64mI
Teaming up to provoke a catfight: https://youtu.be/WQd9kuXpUYU
Nipping a sausage: https://youtu.be/Y0xwX5iOFok
Shrike (A.K.A. butcher birds) are predatory but since they are song birds they don't have talons to rip apart prey into manageable bites. Instead they impale their pray on thorns or barbed wire so that they can tear off bits with their beaks. They also use this to store food and have been known to use this to wait until the poison in certain insects degrades. During mating season, the number of carcasses that a male shrike has hung up is used to demonstrate its fitness to females.
Killdeer nest on the ground, so when a predator approaches the nest the mother attempts to lead them away by pretending to have a broken wing.
If you're interested in this topic a good book is "Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?", by Frans de Waal.
A crow once sneaked quite far into my mechanic's shop without being seen, got up on a rolling toolbox and stole a bag of sunflower seeds without being noticed. I found this because I saw a crow and their other crow buddies were having a sunflower seed party in the alley, and one of the mechanics lost their snack.
Also, crows will remember if you help them for years. People make a point to make friends with them because they have been known to bring gifts and visit year after year. Probably better company than the in-laws too. There's a number of documentaries and personal videos on YouTube about this topic.
PS: Davis CA has zillions of crows. An apartment I rented had large trees at the street containing easily several thousand in a dozen trees where they bedded-down for the night. The sidewalks and streets were coated white with droppings like it was SF's Fisherman's Wharf. Needless to say, no one used those sidewalks. And you could hear when they came back, because it sounded like a crow cocktail party.
A funny aside is always welcome in an otherwise substantial comment, and no, this is not considered racism or offending by 99% of Earth's population, including most Irish.
It's only "racism" in the provincial US preoccupation that "everything said that touches on a population/ethnicity/race is racism". Not in the "X are inferior/KKK/etc" sense, which is what we should be concerned with.
I, for one, don't appreciate taking lessons about how a joke is racist from people from a country that had slavery until the 19th century, segregation since the 1970s, and widespread systemic/popular/law enforcement racism problems today. As if their experience is the universal standard that should be applied to the global population here on the internet. That's, if not racist, surely imposing upon others...
Racism is often considered antagonism based on race or ethnicity. The terms are very closely linked, though it may have been better for me to say "ethnicity."
>Not in the "X are inferior/KKK/etc" sense, which is what we should be concerned with
So what grudges do you think the Irish held leading to this stereotype?
I don't get the rest of your argument. It seems to be "my country doesn't have a problem with racism so racist comments are fine."
It's more "A culture that has historically had heavy racism problems should not export their overcompensating hysteria that everything touching on ethnicity/race is racism and consider its own preoccupations universally applicable".
>So what grudges do you think the Irish held leading to this stereotype?
Why not ask the Irish themselves?
Or on a funny note:
I'm curious where you're from that you think doesn't have a similar history, but it still boils down to "if you don't have a racism problem it's not actually racist." I don't get that logic, you can argue it's not harmful but it's still racism.
>Why not ask the Irish themselves?
I find it strange that all the Irish you are asking are speaking English, but the Irish Times hits why this is offensive.
>Well, Brian, the record so far is a whopping 800 years: this being the period, rounded down to the nearest century, for which we claim to have been oppressed by the English.
Everything else listed is fairly standard, and you could make similar articles for any ethnicity.
Note that I never said "If a place doesn't have a racism problem then them doing racist acts is OK / it's not racist".
My argument is "Places with heavy racist history tend to look at all kind of non-racist acts as racist, either from guilt or to overcompensate, and then try to force their hyper-sensitivity on others".
Instead of getting sensitive about stereotypes like "Irish can hold a grudge", "the Italians like pasta", "Scots are tightwads", "Germans have no humor", "Greeks are fiscally irresponsible", "Asians do everything better" or whatever as "racism", better act on actual racism, like systemic racism, redlining, over-representation of blacks in what's the biggest prison population in the world, racist cop shootings, college admissions, under-funded districts, WASP domination, etc.
Even if this is true, that was a racist statement for the reasons I originally outlined. That doesn't change if Irish say it, and it is of the "x are inferior sense" you mention. That's what has me confused,
>Instead of... act on...
So I should better prioritise the racism I address in my country, ignoring smaller examples until I can fix major ones? I tend to just address the ones I encounter, though I think understanding that past treatment can still cause current problems we need to address is an important message.
So, in the same sense that preferring to have sex with women (or men) is "sexism" since "Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender."
Just not the kind of sexism that e.g. Weinstein peddled.
Just because we call what a bigot or KKK member does racism and making a comment that touches on ethnicity or race "racism" doesn't mean those are the same things, or that both are bad.
You're of course entirely welcome to keep your speech pure, but know that there's a full grayscale here and we all have different tolerances.
I'm Irish and I don't really get it. The statement sounded pretty ignorant and typically American.
(I wonder if people will spot the irony).
How's about we allow a little local flavor while people tell their stories?
>PS: Davis CA has zillions of crows
I realise now that I very badly misunderstood the article :)
Meanwhile: Why Irish grudges are passed on - a long tradition of never forgetting https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/cahirodoherty/why-irish...
I am Irish and live in Ireland.