Crows… what can’t they do?
- The scene: a traffic light crossing on a university campus in Japan. Carrion crows and humans line up patiently, waiting for the traffic to halt. When the lights change, the birds hop in front of the cars and place walnuts, which they picked from the adjoining trees, on the road. After the lights turn green again, the birds fly away and vehicles drive over the nuts, cracking them open. Finally, when it’s time to cross again, the crows join the pedestrians and pick up their meal. If the cars miss the nuts, the birds sometimes hop back and put them somewhere else on the road. Or they sit on electricity wires and drop them in front of vehicles.
Don’t be surprised if you start to see crows on corners begging for change, or rats along the sides of roads looking for aluminum cans:
Vending Machine for Crows, by Claire Trageser, NY Times: In June, Josh Klein revealed his master’s-thesis project to a flock of crows at the Binghamton Zoo in south-central New York State. The New York University graduate student offered the birds … peanuts from a … vending machine he’d created… The Binghamton crows quickly learned that dropping nickels and dimes into the slot produced peanuts, and the most resourceful members of the flock began looking for more coins. Within a month, Klein had a flock of crows scouring the ground for loose change. …
Just imagine if they had opposable thumbs! Be afraid, very afraid……
On a related note, I seem to remember a news item regarding yet another adaptive behaviour of these most remarkable beasts. Apparently, crows have figured out how to stay warm above the arctic circle – roost on street lights. Most street lamps are activated by light sensors which switch on under low light conditions. Crows have figured out if they roost on top of the lamps themselves, the light will stay on generating warmth in what would otherwise be a lethally harsh environment for them.