I spotted her as we drove along a remote stretch of road during our first week in Alaska.
“There’s an eagle,” I shouted. We pulled the RV over to get pictures of the magnificent bird and her companions, perched in the treetops overlooking the river.
A little over a week later, we were on a tour near Seward. When our guide pointed out another of the imperial birds, all of us began excitedly snapping more pictures.
But when we walked past a few crows, the tour guide moved right along as if they didn’t exist. Yesterday, I behaved exactly the same way.
Visiting the Homer Spit on Kachemak Bay, I saw a pair of crows. But did I tell anyone? No. Yet when I spotted more of our famous national birds, my immediate reaction was, “There’s some eagles!”
When I mentioned this avian favoritism to my daughter, she replied, “Of course we’re biased! Crows are in all the horror movies!”
That started me wondering. Do crows care that we’re indifferent to (and fearful of) them? With a little research, I found a thought-provoking answer.
Crows probably don’t care about those things, but they DO care about much more than most of us realize. Science published two studies of their intelligence just last week.
Titled Birds do have a brain cortex—and think and A cortex-like canonical circuit in the avian forebrain, both found markers actually indicating the possibility of “crow consciousness!”
In the first, University of Tübingen researchers concluded:
“Humans have tended to believe that we are the only species to possess certain traits, behaviors, or abilities, especially with regard to cognition. Occasionally, we extend such traits to primates or other mammals – species with which we share fundamental brain similarities. Over time, more and more of these supposed pillars of human exceptionalism have fallen.”
The University’s neurobiologist Andreas Nieder affirmed in an interview with Stat News, “Besides crows, this kind of neurobiological evidence for sensory consciousness only exists in humans and macaque monkeys.”
Stat News further observes that the Science studies support research published in 2014. It showed that crows solved the “Aesop’s Fable challenge by dropping stones into a water-filled tube to bring a bit of food floating within reach.”
The authors of that study stated that crows were the first “nonhuman” animals to master the challenge, which most children can’t solve before the age of 7.
Although the University of Washington’s John Marzluff wasn’t involved in any of the studies, he told reporters “It has been a good week for bird brains! This research is groundbreaking.”
Crows aren’t the only creatures who don’t get enough credit; most animals have much greater intelligence and consciousness than we realize. So why doesn’t our supposedly higher awareness influence our treatment of them?
I certainly think it should! And I know that the next time that I see one, I’ll probably yell, “Look! There’s a CROW! “