It's a drizzly winter day and I am looking out of my living room window into our small courtyard garden, counting birds. It's the second time I've taken part in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' (RSPB) Big Garden Birdwatch where we all get to take part in some serious scientific data gathering on the state of common birds in the UK. The data is used to "understand how numbers of birds using our gardens are changing, and get a good idea of how different bird species are doing, when you compare their abundance and distribution over several years."
The crow is a garden bird I researched for my Crow Thank You greetings card. So in the spirit of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, here are three facts about clever crows, one of which inspired my greetings card.
1. Crows recognise faces
Last night (during a 3am breastfeeding session) I listened to the Infinite Monkey Cage podcast on The Secret Life of Birds where they discussed the cleverness of the corvid bird family - there was even a raven called Brann that performed tricks. The raven is a close cousin of the crow and part of the same corvid bird family. Brann had a really close bond with his owner, so much so that when his owner took Brann out for walks, the raven would fly alongside his owner and always come back - but not without playing a few sneaky tricks for some extra food! Have a listen to find out more (and some strange bird sexual habits).
Experiments with crows have also shown that they recognise faces and associate them with positive (getting food) and negative (being shooed away) experiences.
2. Crows play
According to the experts on the Infinite Monkey Cage, quite a few bird species play and scientists don't really know what evolutionary advantage it brings. Perhaps it helps crows to explore and learn about the world so that when faced with a problem that compromises their survival, they have some ideas from their play that may help them solve it.
I love this video of a crow snowboarding down a snowy rooftop in Russia:
3. Crows give gifts if you feed them
In Seattle a little girl regularly fed crows in her back garden. Eventually they started to bring eight-year-old Gabi Mann little gifts to say thank you - tiny trinkets such as nail or an earring. She created a beautiful cabinet of curiosities with all the little treasures. It was this BBC story that inspired my Crow Thank You greetings card.