A Crow I Used To Know
Animal Stories from All-Creatures.org

FROM The Wildlife Watch Binocular
December 2020

Simply remembering an approximate time and associating it with food was no big deal for my corvid friend.

Crow
Image by Steve Smith, unsplash.com

One of my most unforgettable jobs (as well as one of my first) was working at a farm that hosted events for kids. As an assistant manager, I handled events and safety along with many of the animal caretaking responsibilities. This meant that, on my shifts, I fed most of the animals at roughly the same time – and as I loved them all – I often brought treats. My schedule was predictable enough that the farm animals became excited around feeding time. I started to notice that a wild bird friend had the same reaction.

On the farm, there were many birds who found shelter and scraps – sparrows, swallows, hawks, cowbirds. There were also many crows. When I saw the birds dive down to pick for scraps, I’d toss them a handful of chicken scratch or some fruit. One crow learned this routine, and began to show up for scheduled feedings.

At first, he was anxious and refused to come close, cawing demandingly from nearby trees. He continued to come closer, until he'd drive and swoop up food dropped at my feet. The crow began to not only know my feeding times, but demand for them to come sooner! He would appear as early as an hour beforehand, and follow me from tree to tree around the property, screeching and flapping until I eventually caved and tossed something his way.

It grew to the point where I had to hide my bird-feeding habits from my employers – the crow spotted me through a window and began screaming directly outside the building for an extended period until I tossed some food out the back door in an urgent attempt to silence him. No, it wasn’t random, in my case, the crow only begged for food from me, regardless of who was around at feeding time. This behavior was surprising, but also not unheard of – crows have demonstrated extreme animal intelligence, and are quite good at solving puzzles and problems, so simply remembering an approximate time and associating it with food was no big deal for my corvid friend. Crows have strong memories and object association, as demonstrated by studies showing crows can remember human faces for years on end.


Patrick Kuklinski is a published nature writer and bird fanatic currently residing in New Hampshire while he works towards a Bachelor’s in Zoology.


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