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Crows could be the smartest animal other than primates (bbc.com)
690 points by hhs on Dec 12, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 411 comments

When I was a child, I'd spend a lot of time at my grandfathers farm, and one summer he took in an injured crow that hurt its wing.

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.

Inverse story: my dad sprayed water at a crow on his lawn, the crow then took to perching on the clogged gutter above the front door and kicking water at anyone who walked under.

Please tell me this was a multi-year grudge.

Being a Dad means to set a good example. Otherwise you get buffonery like this. :)

As much as I love my dad for all the good exemple he taught me, there is no doubt in my mind that if I were to lose him, the buffoneries as you call them would be what I miss the most.

My dad set lots of examples. They don't have to be good examples, to teach valuable lessons.

> 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.

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?

Also, cats aren't as social as either dogs or crows (collaborative hunting wise). Cats not coming when summoned is a very common thing, even when they recognise their names.

Cats will come over to you if you squat down, it happens almost instantly. In cat world I guess the human being low means you're nice.

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.

Confirmed, both from reading (I suggest The Lion in the Living Room) and from experience. My cats know my schedule better than I do.

> such that a name like “jack” wouldn’t even register to them

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.

But you still produce high frequency sounds: the "clicks" and such that differentiate consonants, for example.

The cat may be responding to those discrete high frequency sounds, rather than your overall voice.

Crows also have vocal chords capable of producing human language, and - similar to parrots - they can learn human phrases in the right conditions.

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 was staying in a hostel in the Philippines and they had a pet crow that would greet you, but he'd also fuck with you - or at least me. He'd say "Come here" over and over until I went over to him, then he'd turn away from me when I got there. As soon as I turned back away he'd say "come here" again. Funny little shit.

My wife and I used to return to the same place in the woods and would try to attract and feed crows. Once we were packed up and preparing to leave with crows watching us as my wife distributed more peanuts while she was trying to caw like them but I then found that the crows were changing some of their caws seemingly to mimic my wife's imitation and then purely by accident I coughed and a nearby crow clearly mimicked my cough!

I love crows, they have lots of character if you take time to observe them.

I had a similar experience. When I was a kid I used to buy grocery from a local store. There was a crow greeting every single customer with "Hello! Dinner yet? Dinner yet?". I think that's a good way to connect with local customers :)

When I was 12 or so we had a neighbor who had a pet raven or crow, not sure which. But this bird did the owners cigarette cough and gravel gert voice perfectly for 10 or so words.

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.

There is an American Crow in an enclosure at a local wildlife rescue. He can't be released because of his injuries, so he's one of the center's permanent residents. He won't speak on command, but he will immitate sounds he hears (he does a ringtone sort of sound) and he will say "American Crow" every so often.

There are lots of youtube videos of talking (and swearing) crows.

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.

Crows and Ravens can also sound very human. There are some videos on youtube that are pretty unnerving. Makes for good background to Poe's famous story.

That's a wonderful story. My only New Year's resolution this year was to befriend a crow. So far, no progress. Maybe next year.

You'd probably need to start with a lone crow. As a group they can be quite nefarious and clever about it. I once slowed down a group of crows from killing and eating an injured bird; once they boldly got past my interference, they formed a sub-group and that sub-group followed me all the way home (1/2 mile) hopping from tree to tree, cawing the whole way.

> they formed a sub-group and that sub-group followed me all the way home

A subgroup of crows is called a manslaughter

I saw crows doing that with a fox once. The fox looked very displeased

No wonder people thought they were witch familiars.

Two crows have recently taken up residence in my backyard, along with my friendly bush turkey, Doug. They’re so much fun to watch and interact with!

This is also a goal of mine. I have read that they like peanuts still in the shell.

Over the summer my partner taught our local gang of crows that if they come to our house in the morning and the afternoon and make some noise, she'd come out and throw them peanuts and meal worms. We're not on petting them terms, but we've got an understanding. :D

There was a documentary in Japan a few years ago that showed local crows going absolutely crazy for mayonnaise. (Ketchup, on the other hand, they had zero interest in.)

Nuts are good. Or any kind of dog or cat kibble.

Your grandpa sounds like a great guy.

Who, Jack? Yeah, he's a great guy.

This made me think, what is a jackdaw? Turns out...it's a kind of crow.


I'm sorry, are you having an argument with someone about jackdaws in a parallel universe?

If you want to have one with me, you've got to...ease into it.

It's a famous reddit copypasta

What is the point or doing this, especially without linking to the source or proving context?

Do you and your friends have inside jokes?

Nah mate.

I’m also terrible at parties.

I never reddit.

Crows are amazingly intelligent animals.

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.

Yeap. Food and valuables have to be toddler-proofed around crows. They can also steal your wallet or your keys if you leave them unsecured.

And, damn, they're as good as human thieves at reading situations for opportunism.

I was in Nepal having breakfast. Some crows are sitting there watching me eat. I look down to read my book, and in not more than a few seconds, I hear the clinking of dishes. I look up and the crows are flying off with my toast and jam. It was right in front of me, but they were quick enough to get in and out before I could react.

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.

I had lunch with a crow in Austin once! It was my favorite experience. I was having pizza on an outside table on 3rd/2nd ave, and a Crow was standing nearby looking at me, probably waiting until I finished so it could swoop in on the left-overs. I motioned it to come closer, left a bit of pizza on top of the table, and it flew up on the table with me. Then I'd munch on a bite, tear off a piece for the crow, and it would eat the piece. Went like that for like 20 minutes before I had to get back to work, but it was so cute. I had a little crow buddy! :)

are you sure it wasn’t a grackle, being in Austin and all?

I sat and watched a raven (majestic and BIG, if you've never seen one) at Yellowstone Park for a few minutes.

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.

Speaking of corvids. Magpies are ones of the more social birds, I'm always amazed how vocal and varied their communications are. You could teach them to speak simple phrases. They can engage in gang violence (especially between two groups of juveniles). Magpies can establish "friendship" with crows if it helps them scavenge food.

Ravens are pretty awesome. They can even say, "hi"


I once watched three ravens raid a McDonald's trash can.

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.

Does level of intelligence determine how much respect you give something then?

> their in-built modeling of other agents

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.

if it soothes you at all, we also talk about humans in the same cold clinical language. Hell, I talk about myself that way...

I saw a crow steal a credit card off an outdoor table in Seattle once. They really are remarkable animals. Also I swear they have regional accents to their calls.

> Also I swear they have regional accents to their calls.

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."

I live in an area that's got crows and ravens -- the ravens don't come into the city much, except for large forested parks. The crows in such parks have a few calls similar to the ravens. To me, it sounds like a rural dialect -- which is reinforced by my observations that crows don't seem to talk like that in noisier parts of the city.

I wonder if they know how to use ATMs

Here in Australia most people now buy food and drink by tapping their bank cards on a reader. Can't be long now until a particularly smart crow sees this at a beach side shop, and steals a card to copy this. Is a shopkeeper obligated to serve other species? I for one will welcome our new flying thief overlords.

Joshua Klein built a crow vending machine with some success (using coins). Tap to pay could be quite a bit more profitable, though I assume you'd have a pretty high chargeback rate.


His research claims have been disputed, and an initially favorable NYT story about him ended up being retracted. I think he probably can't be cited anymore as a credible source on the question of crow intelligence.

If this video is to be believed, they understand the concept of using a card at an ATM, but can't quite grasp exactly what to do:


To be fair, when ATMs were first introduced here, most people struggled to use them too

I think I saw a video of some bird puzzle where they have to tap the right thing with their beak to get a treat. It doesn't seem too far removed from entering a PIN code. I bet you could teach them to do that.

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.

Tapping buttons on a vending machine and then tapping a contactless bank card seems like the most promising route for a crow to buy food.

I await a birds nest made from $20 bills.

Take a picture of that, write “capitalism” underneath then bring it to an art gallery and you’re rich.

I've observed Grand Canyon South Rim is a great example. They actively work the tourists who make hand-to-mouth gestures and steal when items are unguarded. Their team strategizing while hacking bear-proof garbage cans is impressive, too. One handles the door/partition while one or more enters for the snacks. I spent 1/2 a day watching them.

Oh I learned this the hard way after a crow flew off with my money clip at the beach...

Gulls are pretty smart too. I've seen a flock case out a tourist as they set up their beach blanket. Once the tourist turns their back, they swoop in.

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.

I was at a beach where I was younger where people routinely fed the fish dog food. The fish had learned to recognize this and would swarm the person feeding them. The gulls in turn would actually step on the fish to get to the food.

Clearly, gulls are the honey badger of the bird world!

My wife grew up here in IL, we were visiting New England where I grew up and spent a day on Hampton Beach, her, I, and my daughter.

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.)

I wonder how kea (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kea) compared to crows in terms of intelligence. I’ve heard those things are more than capable of breaking into vehicles.

They are also known to steal anvils. [1]

[1] http://dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/DF2014:Kea

I remember seeing a program a while back which was comparing crows and kea and they concluded the kea was marginally smarter. Although, of course, that's related to the specific test they set - different tests might yield different results. They definitely are smart, tho

No animal is more a thief than the monkey gang up on The Rock of Gibraltar

They probably learned it from the seagulls. or at least traded techniques :)

search for "seagull thief" videos.

That reminds me of the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park: "Unless they figure out how to open doors." :)

In times when I'm in evil-overlord mode, I want to remove all lever-sets and replace them with doorknobs covered in toddler-spinny-thingies.

Doorknobs are not ADA compliant any longer, but if you are on a private island with utah-raptors? knobs.

We have crows and jackrabbits in our neighborhood. You drive down the road toward a bunch (I think they prefer the term "murder") of crows having a meeting in the middle of the road. They'll eventually start nonchalantly strolling to the side at a calm, measured pace perfectly timed to just barely get out of the way as you pass and stroll back again, no feathers ruffled.

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.

Oh yes! I live in a mostly rural area with lots of roaming fauna. Deer, hares, hedgehogs, cats of course, martens, rodents, foxes, all kinds of birds. Both when driving privately and when at work as a bus driver, I am observant and conscientious about all this wildlife: The roads are full of roadkill, which both saddens and angers me - but none of it is mine; I keep my eyes on the road, and I slow down for everybody.

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.

To be fair though, birds have had to adapt long ago to evaluating the movement of very fast moving objects, while rabbits and most mammals have not really had to cope with fast speeds until humans invented cars just a century ago.

But to be fairer (to crows), I've witnessed crows just cross the yellow painted lines in a road to get to safety. They've adapted to our traffic rules.

They 'bomb' the street with walnuts where i live to open them. That's smart but not that impressive. What's impressive is - they don't do it on the parking lots where cars rarely drive, nor on the main road where cars drive constantly. They target pedestrian crossing near the main road, wait for cars to crack the walnut, then eat it.

They understand where the perfect number of cars is gonna be.

And crosswalks are great, as when the light changes, they have the chance to eat it without getting run over.

These particular ones have no lights. But people are still more careful around them so still good idea I guess.

In my experience "without getting run over" is very context oriented with the context being "what city are you in".

In Davis, CA they would perch on power lines holding a walnut in one claw, positioned over on of the wheel paths, and wait until a car was approaching in the appropriate position, and then drop the walnut just before the car arrived. They had a pretty good success rate.

Others just dropped them from high altitudes. I suspect the ones on the power lines were just showing off; as much fun as need.

Could also just be trial and error.

Is there any other form of learning?

humans are able to take concepts and and predict with 100% accuracy what will happen next without trial and error. We also have arithmetic which also is not trial and error.

> We also have arithmetic which also is not trial and error.

How did you learn arithmetic?

We're getting into Hume/Kant territory

Which also sums up most of human history.

Normally I try not to contribute useless comments, but I found this to be a particularly hilarious, laughing-out-loud at my desk observation.

"... and has widely been considered a bad idea." Thanks, Douglas Adams :)

Exploration vs exploitation in action.

Rabbits are prey animals. I don't think(?) crows are.

Prey animals are wary and startle easily to reduce their chance of becoming lunch.

By that logic, they shouldn't be running towards the car that's gonna eat them.

They try to be stealthy and when the car is still going at them they run diagonally towards it, to make it turn and lose momentum. It's a good strategy vs bigger heavy predators, just not vs cars.

Most fast animals can't change direction easily.

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.

The reason rabbits and squirrels run into the car is because they assume it’s like other predators and not taking a path. Squirrels are trying to “juke” and anticipating that the car will respond to that.

I have to think that over time squirrels must be evolving due to cars. I do see dead ones, but I often see them running across the road, and notably not zigzagging. They still don't seem to have a sense of how close and how fast a car is moving though. I've seen a coyote not only assess the trajectory of my car, but change its mind about crossing the road in front of me once I demonstrated I had no traction in the snow.

Squirrels make a beeline for the nearest vertical surface they can climb and hide behind. This is what makes them dangerous to bicycles because they will run through wheels on their mission to get to the tree.

They don't have the planning ability that a predator has. They survive in numbers by breeding like rabbits.

Predators like lions and cheetahs achieve top speeds comparable to a car driving on freeway tho.

For a whole like 8 seconds before it's nap time

And once a day only. If you fail, you starve until the next day.

But that's ambush style... cover, creep, approach, then burst, startle, takedown. Or go hungry.

Are you forgetting the birds of prey?

Where I live, an island right by the mainland, birds of prey are not allowed. If one shows up, the crows will all take to the air, maybe fifty to a hundred of them, and will yell and chase the bird of prey until it leaves the island. Once it is over water, they will give a few last screams and turn around and go back to their business.

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.

There are many bird species that do the same. Last year in Rotterdam, Netherlands they released a trained American bald eagle from a highrise building to fly to a designated spot across the river. It never arrived there as it was attacked from all sides by other birds, mostly seagulls, and chased across the city. It took hours to find the eagle, and when they did the poor beast was exhausted.

Well, a bald eagle is a glorified seagull, a golden eagle would've fared better.

That's strength in numbers. I saw two crows trying this against an eagle,... I think they only survived that because the eagle was too lazy and figured it was easier to just grab some trainer-provided food after the show. Mind, the crows probably didn't recognize the huge bird, since they're not native here. That one "belonged" to a small wildlife reservoir. The trainer said it was more like he agreed to stay there in exchange for free lunch; which meant after a show the bird would occasionally hit the road for a few days, if he felt like it.

Staying still (minimizing visibility through motion detection) and then moving at the last moment is better avoidance strategy for a bird of prey, unless there's an actual hole they can disappear down.

Well, in his defense, so do rabbits, most of the time :-p

On the other hand, if you are out driving and there's a flock of Canadian Geese walking across the road, try only slowing down to 5 to 10 mph. They are used to people stopping until they finish crossing so they freak out when you don't.

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.

Canada Geese are not evil, they just don't take shit from humans. They can be very chill (after they have mated). They flock to my university every year and they will walk side by side around campus with the students like they're one of them.

Canada Geese not Canadian :)

We put all our fill will into the geese, then send them south for the winter to let it all out. It's how we maintain our niceness.

Might have had some side effects though.

Where are you from? I've never heard anyone say Canada Geese.

That’s what they’re called[0], no matter where you’re from.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_goose

I've lived in ID and MT (bordering BC and Alberta) for most of my life and people mostly say canadian geese even though I've heard that canada geese is preferred.

Canada Geese is the species. Canadian Geese is any geese that's Canadian

Nobody says Canada Geese unless you're on the internet. It's pretty much Canadian Geese.

I agree. I only have ever had one person correct me on this, who was, incidentally, Canadian. It's rather infuriating because the Latin name is literally 'from Canada'...which we already have a term for(Canadian). If anything, it feels like Canada Goose is a bad translation that people stick to.

American here, can confirm.

What if they are from Canada? Are they Canadian Canada Geese?

Pigeons do the exact same though, I never slow down for them because I know they always fly out of the way just in time, even when it looks like you're about to roll over them.

Pigeons have been trained to discriminate between different styles of art [1], which suggests complex, adaptable, visual processing and skill retention. So they may not be a great example of a bird that can only exhibit simple behaviours.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1334394/

Well, you should. Pigeons can have an illness or fights that make them loose some toes and because of this, they can walk slowly or not react as fast as the others. One day I saw one on the street while a truck was comming fast towards it. I heard pretty clear a "plop" sound, like the sound of a bag exploding. I just hear it because I didn't want to look at it. It's not the kind of image you want to remember.

I still remember seeing a bird die when I was a small child. The bird was in the street right next to an intersection, and a car made a right turn at the intersection and caught the bird unaware.

I thought the same until I almost got a pigeon trapped in my bicycle pedal! It got dragged along for several seconds before it managed to flap away. Not one of the bright ones, I guess.

Previously I heard about crows in Japan leaving nuts on the way of the cars to crash them when traffic lights are red and collecting them the next cycle. This summer I witnessed the exact same thing when I was driving through a particularly jammy traffic light here in Europe.

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.

Exact thing happened to me one or two days ago. I was driving home and on a small street near my apartment a crow flew out of the bushes and dropped something right in front of the car and then it landed on the other side of the street. When I looked back in the mirror, the crow had gone back to collect what looked like a walnut.

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...

I thought magpies were supposed to be thieves, but you seem to have an honest one that pays for its food.

Yeah, otherwise it could have stolen cash and paid for the food but it's cutting away the middle man all the way.

For what it's worth, crows in Central Europe have been doing this for decades. They (carrion crows) used to do it outside my childhood home in Austria ~25 years ago. (Very light traffic, so no traffic lights; they just put some nuts in place when they heard a car coming.) They would generally first attempt to crack the nuts simply by dropping them onto the road from a height. I guess they left the ones that didn't crack on impact at terminal velocity for the cars to deal with.

There may well have been multiple independent discoveries, and passing the skill on between individuals and generations has probably made it near-ubiquitous now.

I read an article about crows in Australia killing a very poisonous frog. They are able to teach each other was the conclusion of that article. I don't have time atm to find the article.

I wonder if what makes humans "intelligent" is exactly this. Plus we have a 70-90 years of life. Which is long enough to learn and do stuff, compare that to 10-15 years for your average crow.

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.

a human is only able to bring food to the table after 25-26 years of learning and training

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.

My 10 year old can start a fire, create a shelter, gather/sterilize water, hunt, trap, clean game and cook it. Humans are scary smart compared to other life and can easily pickup survival skills, manipulate their environments to suit them, even as a child.

To be fair, many animals can create a shelter, gather water, hunt, and so on when they're ten months old ;)

Sounds like a good theory, until you think about animals like parrots and turtles. Both of those have lifespans that are about as long as that of humans, and no doubt they are very intelligent (esp. pronounced with parrots), but not smart enough to be able to support your hypothesis.

How so? My hypothesis is that if a human is not exposed to this curricula of learning, he'll be close to these animals in intelligence. I don't know of any such humans. I also don't know of any such parrot that was given a learning program for 25 years.

We don't really know what they'd be capable of. Not having opposable thumbs is a pretty massive handicap compared to primates.

I'd say it still takes a lot of intelligence for all that training to be effective. If we were much dumber it wouldn't even help. Long life is probably necessary but definitely not sufficient.

I’ve seen the same behavior in the Pacific Northwest. It seems to be widespread.

Crows are known to give "presents" to humans they like, such as dropping small pieces of metal they picked up, or worms. Also, crows have very rich tribal behaviours going on. There's a town close to mine called Husum (in North Germany) where there's a multi-year battle going on between crows in the park. You immediately notice it by the noise, and in fact by dead crows lying on the ground.

I remember reading a story a while back about a kid that threw rocks at a tree full of crows one day when he was walking to the school bus. After that day, the crows decided that this child was the enemy. Many kids walked past the tree on the way to the school bus every day and the crows completely ignored them, but when little rock thrower walked by he'd literally get shit bombed by 20-30 crows all the way to the bus. Every single day.

I guess they give presents to people the don't like also :)

I wonder if anyone’s ever done an experiment on the social connectivity of crows, by first somehow pissing off an entire flock of crows; and then tagging a particular individual crow, and repeatedly being friendly to/appeasing that crow, and seeing how long the it takes for the message that you’re not such a jerk after all to spread among the rest of the crow population.


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.

> flock of crows

This is called a murder of crows. I've always found that term odd, and it seems derogatory. I don't know the origin.

and multiple ravens are referred to as a "conspiracy" whereas a group of owls is a "parliament" and gather several vultures and you get a "venue"

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"!

Collective nouns are linguistic bullshit made up by people who want to excel at pub quizzes. I hate them :o)

And hedgehogs form an array!:)

and here i was thinking all owls were always solitary

The book "King Solomon's Ring" is by an Austrian naturalist with a few chapters on crows: quite amazing observations.

Cats tend to bring gifts too.

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.

Cats are responsible for killing up to 25 billion animals annually and have directly contributed to the extinction of at least 33 different species.

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.


To me it seems like everybody talks about it. I've lived in the US, Australia, and now Sweden, and almost everyone seems to have some sort of awareness of and opinion on this issue.

My girlfriend sewed a collar for her cat out of a colourful patterned fabric, and also added a fringe of metallic, very reflective material to it. The collar seems to help a lot — he's no longer able to catch any birds, which are apparently highly attuned to bright and reflective colours (though rats aren't a problem). Highly recommended.

This is why I don't let my cats roam freely outside. If they want outdoor kitty adventures, they can have them on a leash.

I think this is one of the reasons cats were worshiped/revered in ancient Egypt (for 3,000 years in religious practice). They were the official protectors of the pharaohs chambers against snakes and scorpions.


I disagree. If that were the case many of those smaller species would have gone extinct ages ago due to natural predation from wild foxes and ferrets. Domesticated cats are a new issue because they often hunt with the same voracity of wild animals, but don't experience the natural pressure on their population that wild predators do because they're human pets.

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.

One theory I heard on cats leaving dead things for you is that they think of you as a non-effective cat that needs help killin things, similar to a mom cat teaching kittens to hunt.

I’ve read this, too. Cats leave you gifts not because they’re being particularly friendly, but because they regard you as an incompetent hunter. You see the behavior in indoor-only cats as well though, say, leaving toys on your pillow, etc. In that case, I wonder if they’re reciprocating? You feed me, I feed you (kind of).

The gift-bringing behavior of domestic cats is not well understood. The "incompetent hunter" hypothesis is, well, just a hypothesis. I don't think any particular assumption of ineptitude is required on the cats' part; Occam's razor says that they're simply doing what they think is their part in keeping their family unit well-fed.

We've had more than one cat that absolutely loved playing fetch. When my wife figured out how to toss a bouncy toy from the bedroom and two rebounds to get it down the stairs to the first floor landing, it was game on for Gabriel...

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.

Wonder what one can do to "prove themselves", perhaps let the cat witness them catch something? Sounds like a great research subject.

Bite a rat to death in front of the cat and consume it raw while maintaining unbroken eye contact.

... and after that Ozzy Osbourne's cats never brought him dead animals again. The end.

Interesting thought! You could take folks who regularly get dead animal presents and then have their cat witness them catch a rodent or bird, and see if the presents continue. I'd enjoy that read or youtube video, haha.

Leave an elk carcass on their pillow, that ought to shut them up.

My mother's cat used to carry live mice into the house and release them. He'd bat the stunned mouse around but not kill it. I would have to catch the mouse and bring it back outside. The exact opposite behavior you want from a cat.

I've been to Husum! I and my family stayed there when we visited. I'm an American, but my ancestors emigrated from that area. It's a beautiful town and we were shown the utmost hospitality by both the people there and our distant relatives that live nearby.

"Brodersen" (if that's your family name) definitely wouldn't sound unfamiliar in Frisia.

I wonder if this kind of behavior is connected to the etymology of the term "murder of crows".

Crows also eat carrion and listening to a bunch of them squawk all at once definitely sounds like they're a crowd at a colosseum demanding someone get killed.

> You immediately notice it by the noise, and in fact by dead crows lying on the ground.

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.

They also battle hawks. If I ever hear a lot of commotion (crow-motion?) I frequently see a hawk in the midst of it getting driven off by dive bombing crows.

It's fascinating that intelligence exists in different clades & phylum of animals: crows, octopus, apes etc. It suggests intelligence is not very progressive, in evolution. It advances & recedes, and evolution can find multiple paths to it from various starting point. It doesn't take a mammalian brain.

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.

A wild untrained human animal isn't that bright. We can probably operate above the crow level, but maybe not by much.

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.

Crows do this to some extent. They gather collective knowledge and pass it on to their offspring. If you act maliciously towards a crow, it will teach its friends that you are dangerous, and they will all warn each other if you approach. This will keep happening even after the original crows are dead, because they will teach their children that you are an asshole, too, even though those children may never have seen you do anything wrong.

Yes, and that's a step up from a blank slate for every generation. But humans take it much further by creating powerful abstractions, and transmitting specifics and abstractions in a form that survives the death of the original creator.

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.

So would you then argue that before humans invented writing, they were on the same levels as crows.

Crows have an oral tradition, and so did humans in that time, therefore they're about as equally smart, back then?

>What makes us special is persistent collective learning and abstract communication.

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 beg to disagree. I can't quote the sources from the top of my head, but the comment about persistent collective learning and communication seems to be the science view on the matter last time I checked. For example, some non-primates animals and some primates can and in fact use tools to various degrees. The energy harness and fire is a consequence of doing/being able to do these things, not the condition.

I watched a documentary once that demonstrated how smart chimps are but the main point of it was to demonstrate how they do not pass on much to their offspring. Also it theorised that this is why humans didn't co-opt chimps. You can't communicate with them. A relatively dumb dog is better.

i/o is more important than calculation when it comes to getting things done.

Humans are amazing teachers. If we see someone fail, we can imagine the specific reasons why and try to overcome them. Other animals like chimps also see the mistakes, but they won‘t adapt, they will just show how it‘s supposed to be done over and over.

I don't think the expression "wild untrained human" even makes sense. There haven't been any wild untrained human ancestor since a long time before humans appeared.

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.

There are still wild untrained humans. In most cases, it's a very sad state of affairs when that happens since a lot of child neglect has to occur. But I'd argue that children that have been fed but other than that left alone for 10 years, classify as an "untrained" human.

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)

> A wild untrained human animal isn't that bright. We can probably operate above the crow level, but maybe not by much.

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.

Look at the levels humans are when they haven't been taught by other humans: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child

What kind of structure would you build in the wild, if you'd never seen a house, or hut, or lean-to? Think you'd just arrive at these ideas on your own? Think you'd even consider building your own at all? Or would you just keep walking until you found a cave?

We depend more on our collective intelligence and teachings than you think.

> What kind of structure would you build in the wild, if you'd never seen a house, or hut, or lean-to?

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.

I think you are making of conflating how a socially raised human would behave in the the wild with how a feral human would behave. Despite nearly 8 billion people on Earth, we have very little data on human cognitive development when isolated from other humans.

It's not, although I believe I see why it was unclear.

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.

> 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.

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.

It seems like you're suggesting that there aren't massive biological differences between a wild human and a crow. This is false. Humans have many biological faculties that crows simply do not have.

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

That's a little misleading. An individual child will not be able to fluently acquire language if not exposed during the so-called "critical period"; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child for plenty of examples.

_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.

I we where that stupid we wouldn't be able to learn new languages as an adult.

> I we where that stupid we wouldn't be able to learn new languages as an adult.

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.

Many Bird species have a language that is both taught and spontaneously created

It would be an aberration for a crow’s calls to be arbitrary

This whole story is extremely interesting.


- Cave art from 44kya https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/440000-year-old-cave-art-d...

- 'Venus' statues - some possibly as old as 300k years!! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_figurines

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

It's an interesting perspective to think of pre-agricultural (the 40k line is admittedly before that) humans as not standing out amongst other fauna, but on the other hand there is no reason to imagine them standing out any less than groups that stayed hunter-gatherers into modern times and those certainly do/did. They would not have left many traces identifiable after tens of millennia though, not now, not then.

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?

Intelligence might be easy to evolve, but have a high energy cost.

In many environments, the extra intelligence wouldn't allow you to find enough extra food for the trait to be worthwhile.

There's a huge flock of crows gathering near a golf course where I live every winter. I looked it up, and apparently this species live pairwise in summer but in huge flocks in winter.

I honestly wonder how they can find enough food, there are so many of them.

Humans make a LOT of trash and much of it is discarded food that they can scavenge. I suspect that the variety of animals such as crows and rats and their large population sizes is directly correlated with the growth of humanity.

I don't think they would exist in such large numbers without us, basically.

Birds' intelligence is especially interesting because the ontogeny differs from that of primates and other mammals like the dolphins. Maybe it can help triangulate our views about intelligence and give parallax insight into what general intelligence is and what to expect of AI without resorting to anthropocentric Turing test arguments only.

cephlapods, primates, crows. I wonder if someone studied all three.

I believe that people have a strong aversion to doing this. So many still refuse to believe Darwin for suggesting that we are closely related to other animals. Imagine the pushback for stating that we are just another species with higher intelligence? That hits us humans where we think we are really special and important. This keeps AI research safely in bed with ANNs that pose no threat to discovering deep and unflattering truths about ourselves and our place on Earth.

They also like to annoy other animals. I have seen it now a few times that a crow or a group of crows would approach a dog from behind and nip their tail or butt. When the dog turns around the crow will jump back a little and pretend it has nothing to do with this. When the dog looks away they will do it again. I have seen similar behavior with swans. When my dog chases they get out of the way but only the minimum needed.

Very smart but obnoxious in a way.

Just found this on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Y0xwX5iOFok

They also do this to cats, which is much more dangerous. There's a video with a cat catching a bird (not a crow) that did this: https://youtube.com/watch?v=nfIQifAcm0g

I think that's different. I'd guess the cat was unknowningly getting near the bird's nest + kids so mother was panicking.

In that case, yes. It was just to illustrate that cats are eerily effective at catching birds mid-flight.

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.

To me, the "will they mess with other animals for giggles" and "do they recognize other intelligent animals" are the barrier for entry into the "intelligence" consideration.

Dolphins (including orca) do, primates do, the article says crows do. Cats and dogs do too.

Sometimes they do this to steal winter fur for nests.

Wild sulphur crested cockatoos that live in the scrub behind my fence do this to my neighbours dog.

It never stops being funny to me

It just takes 2-3 crows to make any cat run and hide. The cat knows it can't take them on...

The "Just for Fun" link[1] leads to some entertaining videos:

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

[1] https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/10/scientists-investiga...

Not directly related, but some other bird behaviors that I find fascinating:

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.


Shrike birds always remind me of the Shrike from Hyperion [1]. I guess the real thing inspired the character's thorny exterior.

[1] https://duckduckgo.com/?q=hyperion+shrike&ia=images&iax=imag...

The thorny exterior, as well as the character's propensity for impaling its victims on the Tree of Thorns and letting them hang there for eternity.

Once I was sitting on a bench under a walnut tree and a walnut fell to the pavement near me and got cracked. I thought it fell from the tree and picked it up and ate it. Suddenly a crow appeared and started screaming and flying around me. I suspect the walnut didn't drop from a tree but it was the crow who throw it to crack it open. I said sorry, but it kept cursing :(, so I quickly left.

It's very difficult to tell which is the smartest animal - or whether an animal is intelligent or not - because intelligence is a broad concept and there are many kinds of intelligence.

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.

I highly recommend that book!

Crows are social too, will hold a grudge... you's swear they were part Irish.

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.


Actually there's no need for this comment, the mock-indignation on behalf of others.

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.

Saying something displaying a certain behavior makes them seem like a certain race is racism, even if you don't find it offensive.

Irish are an ethnicity, not a race. They're the same race as I am (and probably the grandparent). And they make the same kind of jokes themselves all the time, like my people do the same kind of stereotype jokes for our own kind.

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...

>Irish are an ethnicity, not a race.

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."

>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:


My god, all those links refer to Irish Americans. If anything, it shows that Americans hold grudges throughout generations. It's quite telling that an American conflates Irish-Americanism with being 'Irish'. The hyphen is there for a reason.

>It's more...

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.

>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

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.

>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".

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.

I wasn't sure until this comment, but now I'm 100% convinced you're American.

You could have just asked, but I don't think it's particularly important information.

I don't actually care, I just wanted to point it out to you, so that you understand how strongly it's colouring your views. We all have our biases, and we should all be aware of them.

How strongly is it coloring my views of what somebody else presumably from the same country said?

The fact that you presume him to also be American is another super American trait.

The person talked in depth about things happening in California. I can't be certain they are American, but I have ample reason to presume they are.

Pardon him, Theodotus, he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature. -- George Bernard Shaw

And you hail from some magical fairy land with no history of oppressing others, so it's clearly fine to make light of Irish oppression. Only an American would find that action racist.

No, that's stereotyping. Racism is systematic denial of opportunity to people on the basis of their ancestry.

Personally, I would consider your definition "institutional racism," and both it and stereotyping would be forms of racism.

Only in the sense that they concern "race" (and loosely, since here it's an ethnicity).

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.

The concept of race is not looked on favorably in anthropology anymore, anway. It's better to speak of ancestry groups, as this does not imply biological homogeneity the way 'race' does. Besides, I think for a long time, the concept of race and ethnicity were tied up together, so, 'Racism' is an appropriate way to describe antisemitism, for example. Race is as much a social construct as ethnicity, so the distinction between them was loose from the start.

Stereotyping can be a tool of racism, but to do that I think it needs to imply the inferiority or superiority of an ancestry-group. It's not clear to me that holding a grudge is either a positive or negative quality.

I think you'll find that your opinion is rather hard line on this... compared to the vast majority of actual racist type behavior, and actual putdowns based on <ethnicity>, this is mildly amusing and speaks to a general behavior.

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.

it's an Irish joke, that speaks the the Irish sense of humor. Irish people will jab at the Irish way all day long. It's really not offensive; certainly not as offensive as someone else coming along and deciding to be offended on others' behalf. lighten up.

It's not funny.

That's subjective. I found it funny.

Irish and found funny. Relax people.

Irish-American or actually Irish?

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).

Me too. I’m not at all offended by it. People in general need to chill out more.

I love whenever crows become a topic online because people have all these amazing crow stories that they never have another reason to share.

How's about we allow a little local flavor while people tell their stories?

>How's about we allow a little local flavor while people tell their stories?

>PS: Davis CA has zillions of crows


Local flavour is all about stereotypes. It's all about the common characteristics, seen time and again, in a locality and its inhabitants.

I'm Irish, and now I hold a grudge against you for taking offense on my behalf.

The Irish make these kinds of jokes all the time. Leave it to an American to be offended on your behalf.

I can confirm the quote. Source? I am part Irish.

I am offended. I am part crow.


I realise now that I very badly misunderstood the article :)

It's pretty funny (I'm Irish)

Great, now look what you started.

It was a passing comment, the sun will still rise tomorrow...

Meanwhile: Why Irish grudges are passed on - a long tradition of never forgetting https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/cahirodoherty/why-irish...

Irish central is for America's. Pretty much 100% made up plastic paddy crap.

I am Irish and live in Ireland.

Hope you don't mind if this part-Scot American envies you that just a little.

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