As nature begins to expose its Spring twitterpation, we notice the appearance of an innumerable amount of birds who are coming back. They have the luxury of leaving the bitter cold to spend their Winters in the southern states while we work our jobs and live in our stationary way up north. There was, however, a type of bird (or should I say two) that stayed here and made themselves noticeable regularly. Am I saying that there are only two types of birds that stay north in the Winter? No! Obviously, this is not the case, but today we are focusing our efforts on learning about two of the most common and yet intelligent birds in nature. They are both black and giant in comparison to others. Today we are taking the time to appreciate the crow and the raven.
First, let’s talk about how to tell them apart. The most obvious way is by size. The common raven is much larger than the crow. It also has a much lower, croaky noise that it makes. It has even been known to say the words, “Nevermore,” in poetry, but has yet to accomplish this task in real life. Crows have a much more noticeable caaw.
Another way you can tell the beautiful birds apart is to look at who is near them. Often, ravens travel in pairs and have a longer middle feather in their tail. Crows are usually in larger groups (and are probably being loud about it or mobbing some poor soul that ventured onto their turf or gave them some side eye) with more of a fan shaped tail.
Now that we can tell them apart, let’s talk about what makes these common birds more interesting than the rest. These birds are so smart that they are known to make decisions, recognize faces, and solve complex puzzles and problems. They’re even one of the few non-human animals documented to exhibit secondary tool use, meaning they will make a tool and use that object to help them solve an additional problem. You may have heard not to anger a corvid (the family these birds are in) because they will remember you. They have been documented to honestly hold grudges and distrust even humans who have wronged them in the past. When you are on hikes, remember to respect these birds (as well as all other wildlife).
With more interesting facts on these birds, here is Devon, the biggest bird nerd you and I know:
Ravens are one of my all-time favorite birds. They are incredibly intelligent, ranking up there with chimpanzees, dolphins, and even young humans. They can solve puzzle, hold grudges, play, cooperatively hunt with predators like wolves, mimic speech (sometimes better than parrots), show empathy, and even give gifts.
Crows are quite similar (I mean, obviously, yeah. But you get the point!). They are also incredibly intelligent creatures. In a UW study, crows were shown not just to recognize a face, but to hold a grudge and communicate with other crows to warn them of a masked individual. They also are incredibly adept at solving puzzles and have been documented to use cars stopped at stoplights to crack nuts open.
This is merely a sample of the wonders of Ravens and Crows.
We will continue to focus our Tuesdays on common wildlife that we take for granted. Remember to appreciate the small stuff. How on earth can you appreciate the other wildlife without it? The appreciation of common birds and more urban wildlife is more realistic to our current way of life. Recently, I was watching Adam Ruins Everything, and he actually addresses this notion that I am trying to push in TWL Hiking Club. I recommend the episode to all of us who regularly use nature or our enjoyment.