Other than the common sparrow, myna and pigeon, one bird that Malaysians see frequently hanging out near garbage bins and perching on wire cables is the house crow.
Distinctive because of their black feathers, crows have long been regarded by many cultures as harbingers of death.
But crows are really among the smartest birds in the animal kingdom. Here are six reasons why:
1. They remember people
Crows may all look alike, but on their part, they can actually remember people who leave an impression on them.
American researchers carried out an experiment on the birds, capturing seven of them before letting them go after tagging them.
They did this while being masked, and sure enough, the crows would afterwards harass the researchers whenever they walked about with masks on.
The crows would fly in their faces and let out loud, angry caws whenever the masked researchers appeared in the area.
What was even more surprising is that it was not just the seven tagged crows that did this but other crows as well.
When the researchers went about without their masks on, the crows left them alone.
The researchers also switched masks and the crows accordingly switched targets, not caring that it was a different person wearing it.
It was concluded that the ability to remember is part of a crow’s defence to keep them safe from creatures that pose a threat to them.
2. They can work together
It is known that crows share information about potential threats with each other.
We know that cawing is how crows communicate with each other, but it is still undecided if that counts as a language.
After the generation of crows that had been harassing the masked researchers passed away, it was found that the new generation continued displaying the same hostility to the masks.
It is clear that information was passed on from one generation to another, meaning that the young crows continued the vendetta of their parents.
3. They remember locations
The Canadian farming town of Chatham, Ontario once had a crow problem and an anti-crow campaign was launched by the townspeople.
After one crow was shot down, it was discovered the next day that the thousands of birds that had been plaguing the town had flown off during the night.
Since the death of one of their own, crows have been observed flying above the town at a height safe from being shot at.
Crows have been recorded to avoid places where any of their number has been injured or killed, flying around or high above these locations.
4. They can use tools
In Aesop’s Fables, he tells the tale of a thirsty crow trying to drink from a narrow pitcher.
In the story, the crow eventually starts dropping pebbles into the pitcher until the water level rises enough for it to drink.
He might not have been completely wrong about crows’ ability to do just that.
Researchers studying four rooks, a smaller species of crow, crafted a similar experiment and placed a worm in a narrow tube of water, out of the birds’ reach.
The rooks were provided with pebbles, which they began to drop into the water to raise the water level. Two of the birds did it on the first try and the other two on the second.
In another experiment, two crows were given an option of a hooked wire or a straight wire to extract some food inside a narrow tube.
One crow used the hooked wire to get it out, while the other bent the straight wire into a hook.
The amazing thing is this was the first time either of the crows had used a wire.
5. They can plan
In countries with the four seasons, crows gather food to survive during the winter.
However, they have been observed to be paranoid if other crows are watching, worrying that their supplies will be stolen while they are away.
So, when they think they are being watched, crows have been observed to pretend to be dropping off the food in their cache, but secretly hide it in their chest feathers.
They will then fly off elsewhere to stash their supplies in a safer location.
It is not so easy for the crows to do this though, as the watching crows have been noticed to fly after the crows with the food to hide, meaning that they actually know what is going on.
6. They can adapt
Crows have been found to be able to use humans for their own advantage.
In nature, crows drop walnuts from great heights to crack them. In cities, crows drop them onto roads to be crushed by passing vehicles.
They have also been seen to be able to understand traffic lights to figure whether it’s safe to retrieve their cracked walnuts and when to drop their walnuts to be cracked open.
Crows also memorise the routes and schedules of garbage trucks, as they have been recorded to come only on days when garbage collectors visit a neighbourhood.
This allows them to pick up trash left behind by the collectors, or to dive into garbage bins left open.
So, the next time you decide to shoo away crows from your home, you might want to consider why they are called a “murder” of crows.