Literally, Nelson took off with a pair of scissors and went running with them. The gal I am teaching on how to train Nelson had a pair of scissors fall out of her pocket while in the room with him, and of course Nelson noticed it and probably thought, “Oh, SHINY! MINE! MINE!”
Image from comandress.com. This a lovely photo I found on Google. I think it captures the inquisitive nature of crows beautifully.
At one point the gal with me in the room attempted to regain possession of the scissors but he wasn’t going to give them back without a fight. So we let him run to see what he would do with them, and of course, like any good corvid, he cached them under the newspapers. Below is a link to the video, and no crows were harmed in the making of that video!
Interesting, fun fact is that the notion that corvids are attracted to shiny objects and caching them is more folklore than science. Most corvids do not have an affinity for shiny objects. Research has been conducted on this matter and it found that the majority of corvids in both in captivity and in the wild did not show an affinity for shiny objects. In fact, many were more hesitant of shiny objects. For example, corvids fed with shiny bowls were less likely to take the food. Now Nelson is imprinted, meaning he thinks people are his family. I have found through three years of observation that Nelson most definitely has an attraction to shiny things. But most of all Nelson has an attraction to anything that you want. For example, he knew the scissors belonged to the gal and when she attempted to reclaim them, it made the steal that much more fun because she was “playing back.” The scissors were both shiny and something we wanted so it made for a delightful steal. Hey, he’s like a child, sometimes your just glad that for one minute their entertained and not destroying the house! Corvids are like children or dementia patients they all have their favorite obsession. I’ve heard of a crow once in Florida that loved stealing golf balls, which doesn’t enhance the survival chances of that crow any. Unless that crow found some use that we don’t know yet for golf balls.
We put some night crawlers in a bowl of water as enrichment. Nothing says fun like bobbing for worms or taking a bath in water that just had worms floating in it! One of Nelson’s favorite activities is bathing in water and because of the temperature, we took away his giant bowl of water outside. He is supposed to be one of the smartest bird’s in the world and yet he hasn’t figured out that when it’s cold you shouldn’t take a bath. I have walked out to him once and he had taken a bath and his feathers had frozen to his body. Let’s just say he was not a happy camper.
The center I work at is a part of my minor for college and currently, I now have four students who are learning how to train ambassadors working under me. It was fitting that Nelson went running with scissors today because I feel like I am running with scissors when I train with the students. I have trained animals ranging from dogs to opossums to hawks, but I have never taught someone how to train an animal. I can only hope that I don’t tell them the wrong thing!
Right now I am focusing on teaching them the correct diet for crows. Since crows are omnivores and opportunistic they will eat almost anything. It is critical in captivity that crows receive variety, so often I have seen handlers fall into the routine of feeding the same thing every day because it is easy, it doesn’t require thought. To train Nelson I use all the good food like crickets, mice, fish, and egg as rewards for doing desired behaviors. At least Nelson provided great entertainment to my weekend. He is a joy to work with if you can keep up with his antics!