Earlier today, I had been to Gokarna (One of the holiest pilgrimage town for Hindus in south India), about 100 miles from my home for an annual ritual to pay homage to my late mother. As part of the ritual, the food is first offered or fed to crows before we consume it. Infact we often wait patiently for the crows to come and consume the food placed for them on an altar. This is due to the belief amongst us, the Hindus, that crows are a major link between the living and the dead. Infact we believe that our ancestor comes in the form of crow to accept our offering. And today, they sure came and fed and I felt our ancestors did bless me.
Well crows are considered as bad luck or ill omen and never a subject of interest to any bird watcher or ornithologist. They are just a neglected bird, better kept away as a nuisance, Right? You couldn’t be more Wrong!!!!
Did you know that Crows are one of the most intelligent and interesting birds? They are extremely intelligent and outsmart humans. Infact they have the largest brain to body mass amongst all the birds. Not only that their forebrain ( the seat of intelligence in the brain) is very well developed and their anatomy resemble close to that of humans. They can study emotions and read the face of the humans.
They are also highly adaptive to any condition, except extreme cold of Antarctica, they can be found everywhere around the world. They are omnivores meaning they are not particular about what they eat and they are not fussy. Right from rotting vegetables to dead carcass, everything is palatable to them. That should not be surprising as the first crows appeared 17 million years ago, compare this with apes that appeared 14 million years ago and with the first human evolved around 200 thousand years ago. Crows are much earlier inhabitants of this earth, well before even apes came. So their food habits have transcended certain barriers.
Their intelligence is rated above that of Chimpanzees and they can imitate a wide variety of bird calls including parrots and even humans. That makes crows the most intelligent creatures after Humans, way ahead of dolphins and chimpanzees.
A group of crows is called a “Murder”. It is perhaps because that when a crow gets old and unable to manage itself, the younger crows gather around the old one and start pecking at it aggressively and kill it, so that the old one is spared of a prolonged and slow painful death due to advancing age. For this reason, perhaps “Murder” is a very apt name for a group of crows. But I think it is very humane to do so, if you get my point.
Crows remember the face and never forget one. A decade ago, a test was conducted in Seattle by a group of researchers who wore a particular type of mask and captured a few crows. Later they released those crows to freedom.
But the crows never forgot those masked researchers.
Whenever the researchers wore those particular masks, the crows identified them and attached them! But when other people (other than those researchers) wore those same masks, the crows did not attack them. So they remembered the mask and the associated researcher too (may be physical features, smell or whichever way, they identified them).
Later they also spread the news amongst their crow friends and the “Murder” (the crow group) expanded and joined in attacking those researchers wearing those masks.
Not only that, the message was passed on to the offspring too, so that the next generation of crows too kept attacking the researchers when they wore those particular masks..
And they don’t give up easily. Even after 2 years when the researchers wore the mask, they remembered and attacked again. So beware... Never get into any bad terms with these satin black tiny birds. They never forget
Crows are monogamous in their life meaning they have only one mate throughout their life. Their community is very supportive in that other crows (other than the parents) also take care of the young ones. Sometimes the young chicks take care of their younger siblings when the elders are out foraging for food. They bring up their young ones in a very orderly fashion and they live in a community with certain rules. This fascinating aspect of tending for young ones and community living is very unique in the bird world.
The intelligence of the crows cannot be more understated than a few illustrations mentioned below.
- If a crow is not able to crack a nut, it drops the nut on the highway, so that any passing by vehicle could crush open the nut. Not only that the crow is very intelligent to select the right size of the vehicle so that the nut is cracked open just right and not pulverised to a pulp by heavy vehicles.
- Crows can skilfully create tools for food. No other bird creates its own tools for food. They develop knife like tools from very stiff leaves and grass stalk. This has taken the scientific community by surprise.
- Some crows are known to use bread crumbs to lure fish to water surface.
- They also know to eat the exact non toxic body parts of toxic frogs, thus staying away from harm’s way and they have a particular technique in eating those poisonous frogs too.
Scientists are even pondering if the crows are ultimate problem solvers?
finally I leave you with a link to one of the many YouTube video that shows how smart the crows are.. Press here for the video
After getting to know so much about crows, I have started to believe perhaps they truly are a link between the living and the dead. Who knows? They just might be.
Image Credit: Pixabay / Internet