Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Crow Alpinist?

Lord knows I'm not an animal behaviorist, but here's my perspective on this popular crow-sledding video: I'm a curmudgeonly non-anthropomorphizer on this one; I do not believe that the crow is engaging in what real birdologists call "tool-making or play behavior".

Crows are curious and tenacious and will explore an object quite exhaustively (to our eyes, at least). This bird seems more concerned with pecking at the object's rim than in using it to gain unlimited sled rides. Notice how it continues to drill it after ride #2.  It then takes the object back to the roof's apex for more beakwork--rather than setting itself up for another downhill ride. Nor do I see the crow making a connection between its pecking motion/body weight propulsion and the ensuing downhill ride.

I will admit to some very non-scientific anthropomorphic outbursts when it comes to our avian friends (see, there I go again!), but in this case, I'm gonna play it more objectively.

Thank you to fellow crow-lover John S. for sharing with me!

Addendum as of January 29: After further conversation with a few others, I should clarify that I don't deny that the crow experienced some enjoyment or sense of "play" from the slide. But I don't believe enjoyment was the bird's primary motivation. Any positive experience of that nature, I posit, was secondary and/or incidental to its primary motivation, which was figuring what out what the hell that lid is and/or does it have any edible food particles.


  1. I think I'm with you on this one--the crow seems all about the pecking, & the "rides" accidental. Interesting.

  2. We have a semi-tame crow (no idea her story - she just arrived one day) in our area who LOVES shoes. She can untie shoe laces (my husband and our neighbour) and she keeps trying to open doors by sitting on the handles to push down, as she's seen us do, but she's just too light.

    I say "she", since it's a crow with a strong enthusiasm for males, but just snubs me DEAD. lol She coos and fusses over hubby and ignores me, even if I'm holding food.

    Very smart birds ;-)

    and... my blog is named CROWSFEET. Ironic that my closest crow seems to think i'm competition for her man. LOL