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Way, way off topic: Counting Crows

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  • Way, way off topic: Counting Crows

    No, not music.

    This weekend I was out working and a crow that lives out back of our barn drifted in to roost for a while. He has been living there for several years and is not your average crow. He talks to himself, constantly. He doesn't sound like an ordinary crow either. He rattles off all sorts of weird sounds that I have never heard from other crows, then he seems to burst out in laughter. It's not just me either, my wife heard him doing this yesterday too and that is what she thought it sounded like. It's like he is practising a stand up comedy monologue or something. I have always had the impression he is somehow much smarter than other crows.

    Yesterday I tried calling to him. I do this on occasion with crows and they generally totally ignore me. But not this time. I cawed, he cawed back. We exchanged single caws several times and it became obvious he was replying to me. Then he cawed twice so I cawed back twice. After a brief silence he cawed three times so I answered back three times. Then he cawed 4 times so I answered with 4 caws. A little longer silence then he cawed six times so I answered six times. I thought to myself that he missed number five.

    Then he cawed 3 times and before I could answer he added two more. 3+2=5? At that point something else got his attention and he took off as I went back to work splitting wood. My wife heard all of this too so it isn't my imagination.

    I have no idea what to think of this except it is highly out of the ordinary as far as I know. Has anybody ever experienced anything like in respect of a wild animal, in particular a crow? I mentioned it to a friend and he pointed out that there must be a range of mental capabilities in animals just as there is in humans. So, it this crow an Einstein of the crow world? It has occured to me that perhaps he was testing to see if I know how to count and that I should have replied with 5 caws to his six...
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  • #2
    Next time try cawing 76 times and see how he does.

    My dad once told me crows could count to two.
    If two people walked into a field of corn and flushed the crows out, the crows wouldn't return until they saw two people leave.
    But if three people went in, the crows would return once they saw two leave.
    i.e. they recognized one, and more than one.

    Sounds like your crow might recognize everyone in Williams Lake.
    Last edited by lynnl; 10-13-2009, 11:44 AM.
    Lynn (Huntsville, AL)


    • #3
      I never underestimate the animal world. As smart as we'd like to think we are, there is just too much that we DON'T know about a given animal.

      However, the successive caws could simply be the natural progression of a "conversation" between two birds. Who knows? It would certainly warrant more experimentation, should your buddy come back … or was it your new girlfriend?

      As far as the other traits your bird exhibited- like I said, I never underestimate an animal. Mockingbirds too are fascinating creatures; we have two that hang around. You never know what sound will come out of their beaks.


      • #4
        Evan as you know Crows are highly inteligent animals you are lucky to have had such a wonderful response and I would try to maintain contact and further this in some way good luck,I love all animals .Alistair
        Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


        • #5
          Crows are extremely intelligent, to the point that you can teach them to "talk" if you get them started at an early enough age.

          Your interaction, while unique with wildlife in general, isn't all that unique in reference to crows. This is not at all intended to discount the experience, it's still pretty dang cool.

          If you really watch wildlife, you catch a lot of "weird" things. I once saw a squirrel get hit by a car, then another squirrel drag the dead squirrel off to the side of the road....and then sit with it for a minute or two.


          • #6
            I believe crows have a higher communication pattern like ravens.......

            My buddy was having troubles with keeping up the volume on his cattle waterer, he noticed last winter that when it was feeding time as soon as he was bringing in new bales one cow would head straight for the waterer while all the others would start feeding, after a good solitary drink she would join eating with the others.........out of 100 head she appears to be the smart one.......LOL If cattle and any kind of intelligence is possible.........
            Opportunity knocks once, temptation leans on the doorbell.....


            • #7

              I've always like this one.


              • #8
                I had a pet crow many years ago and can attest to conversations. They are very aware of activities that generate opportunity, and also adapt to patterns of activity quickly, and sounds they make are very contextual to the current circumstance.

                The one I had was injured while learning to fly, so I fixed it up and released it a couple years later. Once it was on its own it would return and we'd converse and I'd give it some food. It would land on my shoulder as before and make quiet noises while I fed it. They do have a wide range of voices and vocalizations (Stellar Jays also do this). At the migration gathering season it left and never returned. They form large murders and move in huge flights around Puget Sound - hundreds of them flying and darting around in the late evening, shouting to each other and crapping on everything


                • #9
                  Crows are pretty smart animals, never underestimate their powers of reasoning, Although as Linnyl says, I also have heard they are not considered to be capable of counting above two, ( Also according to the scientists particularly speaking, Still crows didnt bless us with the invention of atomic weapons!) However Evans your crow seems to me to be able to count, I wonder if it was somebodies pet at one time, or is he engaging in dialogue with you, I have a pair of Jackdaws which perch underneath the eaves of my house, and like your crow Evans, If i make a squawking sound, they will also respond in kind, and watch for gifts of food.
                  At one period, when i was young, we kept a crow as a pet, and believe me it was really smart, and eventually, I got the feeling it reckoned it was our equal in rank, and would try to boss the cat about.
                  We humans with our "superior intellect" think we are the only species who are the big cheese on this old planet, the more i observe the animal kingdom, and read the daily news, I wonder who is slipping behind, Frequently, we find many instances of animals showing a great deal of love and sympathy to their own species, As per Snowmans squirrells, Some time ago, i was reading somewhere that the earwig, is capable of counting all her eggs which she lays, and if one is removed, shows concern, and if grief falls on any of her offspring, she shows signs of distress also we have a lot still to understand about our fellow creatures.


                  • #10
                    Interesting video on crows:
                    Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
                    Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
                    Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
                    There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
                    Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
                    Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


                    • #11
                      Crows are the party animals of the bird world. I can imagine several perched on a sill watching "Wayne's World". There used to be one I talked to in high school on fall. He would "grumble" and carry on about something. We fed him stuff regularly. He would land on my should only when I wore my dark bomber jacket. He would also dive bomb kids coming and going - it was quite a sport. In the spring, it moved on.
                      Merkel, Tx


                      • #12
                        They are smart alright. They work in teams and gangs of teams. I caught this sequence one day when an eagle swooped in during nesting season. The local crows took extreme exception and immediately took the high "ground" and then proceeded to peel off in close formation pairs to harass the eagle until he left.

                        I have heard that crows can count higher than other birds, as much as to six or seven which is in keeping with our "conversation".
                        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                        • #13

                          I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who tries to talk to crows,'s probably not a bad thing if we remain in the minority We don't have a lot of crows here but we do have lots of scrub blue jays, the kind without the topknot. I've had similar experiences with them cawing back and forth with me with the same number of caws. I've also heard them quietly talking to themselves with a large vocabulary, much more than the usual screeches.

                          Interesting thought about your "genius" crow. We humans come with widely varying levels of brain power, and I can't think of a reason why it's not the same with other species.

                          The jays nest in our trees and of course hate our cats. One time a jay was on a low wire screeching at one of the cats. The cat looked up and gave the jay a loud hiss, as if to say "Up yours". I thought it was an interesting bit of inter-species communication.


                          • #14
                            Crow sounds

                            The other day in my neighbours back yard I heard a crow saying what I thought was ARAB several times. Funny cause a Iraqui guy lives there.


                            • #15
                              My Uncle Jake had a pet crow on his farm. Like DP, his landed on his shoulder a lot. I think my uncles's crow was also a thief for bright shinney objects that he could carry off.

                              I'be been told that crows can count to 4. If you want to hunt them successfully you need 5 hunters with one who hangs back in the treeline. When the spotter sees 4 hunters come out he will send out the all clear signal.
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