Illustration by Dave Clegg
One Smart Bird
Betty, a So-called New Caledonian Crow Proved How Brainy She is in a Recent Experiment:
- Betty was presented with a straight wire and a tiny bucket of food dropped down a short pipe, out of reach.
- Holding the wire in her beak, Betty tried to use it to lift out the bucket of food.
- When that didn't work, she took matters into her own, er, beak.
- By pulling on the wire, she fashioned a hook, and in no time at all was yanking the lunch bucket up and out of the pipe!
Other New Caledonian Crows (New Caledonia is an island near Australia)
- In the wild, New Caledonian crows have shown the same ability to make tools and use them.
- The crows turned twigs into hooked instruments.
- Then they used them for digging insects out of holes in trees.
Check out a video on New Caledonian crows. It shows them using a short stick to get at a longer one--and then using the longer stick to get at some hidden food.
Carrion crows in Japan love walnuts and came up with a clever way to crack them open.
- They lined up alongside people at busy intersections and waited for the traffic lights to change to red.
- Then they placed the walnuts they'd gathered in front of the stopped cars.
- When the light changed again, the crows got out of the way and let the cars drive over - and crack open - the walnuts.
- One more light change and the birds hopped along the crosswalk and picked up lunch!
- Now that's "drive-through" service!
Crow Cousins With Smarts
Crows are members of a family of birds called Corvids. Besides crows, this group also includes ravens, magpies and jays, a bunch of birds known to untie knots, unzip zippers and unfasten Velcro.
Check out some of the clever and cunning things these birds can do:
Photo by Gary M.
Ravens are the largest North American "songbirds," ravens have their own language with hundreds of distinct sounds, which they use to spread the word when they've found food.
Photo by James C.
Magpies are unlike many other birds - these clever Corvids understand that when they look in a mirror, the reflections they see are their own.
Photo by USFWS
Clark's Nutcrackers - you don't play memory games with these birds. Right before winter comes, they bury up to 30,000 seeds over a very large area and somehow manage to find almost all of them over the next year - even in the snow!
Blue Jays: are noisy, familiar birds that warn other birds and animals when predators approach. They have excellent memories.
Who's the Bird Brain?
You may have heard people use the expression "bird brain."
It's a mean way to say that someone isn't very bright.
Maybe if more people knew how clever and intelligent some birds really are, they'd think twice before saying that!