Watch: Crows are smarter than you think

10 Aug 2016

A new piece of research has confirmed what we have long suspected: crows are unsettlingly smart, capable of both building and using tools to fish out objects.

Betty, 2002’s celebrity crow, has been found out. Fourteen years ago, a video of Betty, faced with a task, was produced. In it, the crow was presented with a tiny basket of meat, trapped in a tube.


Future Human

Betty, to the surprise of many, took a twig, bent it into a hook, and fished out the food. It has taken since then for researchers to establish that this was no anomaly and that crows naturally work out problems like this.

Betty, working it all out.

Building tools from materials – often materials they have never encountered before – is a “natural, behavioural routine”, according to Christian Rutz, a behavioural ecologist who spent years studying a murder of crows.

“We now think that they bend their tools to get them ready to use; bending is thus part of their natural repertoire,” he said.

Conceptually speaking, it’s hard to know if crows have hooks in mind when the face any access issues – the recent study found bent hooks far more popular than straight tools – however, as previous research has shown, there’s a lot going on in crows’ heads.

The BBC, for example, ran an interesting test on crows before. Faced with a complicated challenge, this crow absolutely nailed the solution:

Of course, there are other examples of these birds working things out, some of which are below:

Crow solve 1 Crow solve 1 Crow solve 1

Main image of crows via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic