Crows have a reputation that proceeds them. Used in horror flicks and scary books for as long as I can remember. But maybe there is more to it than just make-believe. It seems like crows are in the business of revenge after all. New research shows there is more to them then a loud caw and messing up gardens. Apparently, they’ll also remember your face if you’re mean to them.
Zoologists John Marzluff and his research team decided to wear masks, in a recent study, to see if the crows they were observing would remember what they looked like.
They followed the crows from five locations, each time capturing 7-15 birds while wearing masks. The captured crows would scold them with a harsh, repeated “caw,” accompanied by wing and tail flicking, sounding the alarm to other crows and animals nearby. Other crows in the area would caw loudly as well, even “dive-bombing” the researchers in some cases. The only time the crows didn’t react loudly was when researchers switched to a more neutral mask.
As the study wore on, more and more crows became leery of the researchers as they switched from location to location. After three years of studying the birds, close to 70 percent of crows didn’t trust the masked men.
Crows can remember this information about their caregivers because the amygdala in their brain is similar to those in humans and other mammals. That part of the brain is responsible for recognition.
In a subsequent study, Marzluff noted that when crows spot a familiar face their brains light up like a human mind.
He also noted that if you fed and were nice to the captive birds that they were better-behaved and looked at humans as “valued social partners, rather than animals that must be feared.”
In short, it took scientists over three years to learn what most of us have always assumed. That crows are too smart for their good and worth avoiding!