So this feels a little daunting, I am putting my beliefs out there on the internet and I am not quite sure what topic I wish to start with. I guess a good place to start is why I chose the name A Murder of Crows for my blog. A group of crows is called a “murder.” There’s a really bad wildlife joke that we like to tell in wildlife rehab, “What do you call one crow?” The answer always receives eye rolls and a slight chuckle, “Attempted murder.” Well on occasion you get a dull crowd that doesn’t even blink and then it’s just awkward… hello, anybody still there?
Anyways, I chose the title because right now I believe that people are responsible for the “Murder of the Earth.” Yet, that sounded too serious and straight to the point, so I went the poetic route which was more favorable considering that crows are one of my favorite birds. I love how intelligent corvids are, the family that crows belong to which also includes blue jays, ravens, and magpies. Right, now one of my best friends is an American Crow who goes by the name of Nelson. Nelson has the reputation of being a jerk, a butthead, and an overall trouble maker. When I first started training with him back in August I made the mistake of letting these preconceived judgments cloud my idea of him. It didn’t take me long to realize that Nelson was bored and frustrated. He probably sits in his enclosure thinking, “Silly humans don’t they realize by now that talking to me in a baby voice insults my intelligence!” or “Those humans are always giving me the easiest things to do! Not only do I know what you are going to do, but I can predict what you are going to do in the next five minutes!” I began to give Nelson puzzles that I found in countless YouTube videos featuring crows and ravens. Lo, and behold I realized that what we were asking of Nelson was similar to teaching an adult who already knows how to read what the letters of the alphabet were. Over time Nelson transformed from Butthead Nelson to an American Crow. I dropped the incorrect assumption that Nelson behaves and thinks with human labeled emotions and instead treated him like a crow.
It is interesting how quick we are to label an animal with human labels and forget that they aren’t human and have a different (not lesser) capacity to think. Nelson does have complex behaviors and a wicked intelligence but it’s not even comparable to how you or I think or behave.
Here is a food obstacle course that I set up for Nelson. New research suggests that corvids can be as smart as chimpanzees. I figured that if Nelson is that smart then receiving your meal three times a day in a bowl would get old. I switched it up and hid food around the room and under containers. He, in turn, found all the food and turned around and rehid it to his liking. This is called caching which is a common behavior in corvids. At least he was entertained for an hour!