If you live in a city, which most of us do these days, corvids are probably one of the groups of birds that you are most familiar with and have an opinion about. Whether it’s crows, magpies, or blue jays, no other group of birds has adapted so thoroughly to living where we live. Nor has any group of birds been so despised by us while doing so. The reason that corvids do so well in urban areas and the reason we often dislike them are one and the same-corvids are really, really smart.
Not only do corvids use tools – they have been observed using sticks to retrieve food or pebbles to raise the water level in a container – they also recognize faces and remember them. By some estimates, corvids (and particularly, crows) are as smart as a seven-year-old child and may be be the smartest animals other than primates.
There are numerous stories of crows operating everything from drinking fountains to streetlights when they discover an advantage to doing so.
Part of what makes crows so smart is that they both understand abstract concepts and they time to think about problems and figure them out rather than randomly experimenting until they discover solutions.
The other thing that’s very cool about corvids is that they like to play. Like in this video of a crow using a plastic lid as a sled (a tool, if you will) to slide repeatedly down a snowy roof.
They might be loud and obnoxious and they might steal your dog’s food or get into your garbage, but maybe we’re lucky to share our neighbourhoods with such smart feathery friends?