Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Never give a crow a tuna sandwich

January 14, 2010 2 comments

No good deed goes unpunished

Some months ago I read an amazing article in the New York Times by Michelle Nijhuis about how crows can recognize human faces. Humans have evolved some pretty sophisticated pattern recognition skills, especially where faces are concerned, but I’d always understood this was generally limited to the faces of our own species. I know that when I look at, say, a Golden Retriever, I tend to see that breed, and would have a hard time telling the difference between another of the same breed just by facial features. Though maybe dogs don’t differ as much facially as people do. Dogs tend to rely more on what they can smell than what they can see, so evolutionary pennies might have been wasted on making doggy faces different.

But getting back to crows. It’s not just that they recognize us by our face. They can also remember our good deeds – a friend of mine has learned not to give crows peanuts because they keep coming back – as well as bad ones. Even more remarkable is that they share this news – I guess you could call it twittering – among their friends and relations. In one study, students at the University of Washington who trapped crows were followed and harassed for months afterward, even by crows they’d never encountered. Fortunately the researchers had their students wear masks; grad school is tough enough without being chased around campus by an angry mob of crows.

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