Much has been written about the intelligence of crows, the supposed smartest of bird species.
They make and use tools to retrieve food items, organize mobs to drive away predators (a “murder” of crows), use bait to attract prey, watch and learn new behaviors from other birds or their own family members, communicate spatial and temporal information (about food items) to other family members, and can recognize the facial features of different humans. Some researchers claim that crows have intelligence on a par with that of chimpanzees.
I have watched a lot of crow behavior in the backyard, but rarely understand what is going on, except for these two examples from the past week.
There has been a lot of crow social interaction in the backyard lately, with several individuals congregating in one tree or another, calling to each other about something or other. But one interaction between crows was a little different.
Crows might be in the final stages of nest building now, egg laying and incubation takes about 20 days, nestling growth another 35 days, so I am pretty sure this is a youngster reared last year. Juvenile offspring take at least two years to mature and stick around the parents’ territory to “help” (some say they don’t help very much) rear the next crop of chicks. Such prolonged dependence on adults, as well as the cooperative social interactions of close-knit family groups, is an indicator of complex behaviors often associated with higher intelligence.
Whole books have been written about the complex behaviors of crows and ravens, some authors arguing that the complex social behavior of crows mimics that of humans and that our own cultural evolution has been influenced by them. Some of us might take issue with that — but you can read more about this here.