Friday, July 20, 2012

An American Crow Using A Tool

   I have a new fascination with crows because of what happened in our backyard.  I saw a crow use a tool to retrieve some food.  I've heard of crows making and using tools, but I never really thought I'd get to observe that phenomenon... right from my desk chair.
   I watched the crow's impressive feat while I was sitting at my desk.  I glanced out the window and saw a crow trying to pull a hard pretzel (old, stale ones) out of a plastic bag.  What caught my eye was the antics of the crow as it tried to pull a whole pretzel out through hole in the plastic bag... it was bouncing up and down, jerking on the pretzel... but to no avail.  Then, the crow let go of the stubborn pretzel, and of all things, picked up (in its beak) a piece of broken pretzel that was shaped like a hook... and used it as a tool!  The crow hooked the pretzel-tool into the plastic bag and tore the hole bigger!  Before I even had time to think about snapping a photo, the crow dropped the hook-shaped pretzel, pulled out the whole pretzel through the enlarged hole, and flew away.  I reckon crows are smart birds.
    Here is a link to a video of a crow fashioning a tool and using it to retrieve some out-of-reach food.
   Our backyard tool-wielding crow had some companions.  They are regulars around here.  I'm thinking of ways to set up a camera to photograph them using tools.  I would love to snap some pictures of a tool-wielding American crow (hopefully without taking pictures through two window screens and a glass window). Hmmm... maybe a trail cam  facing a tall, clear container with some pretzels at the bottom... and a handy piece of wire nearby.
  Somehow, crows don't seem so boring anymore.


  1. About 20 years ago I raised a young crow, sole survivor of a tree cutting. Watching him(her?) learn things was fascinating and endlessly amusing. Because we kept him in an outside flight cage (an old screen house), he was already a known entity when released into the local community. He was a crow, and the smaller birds still hated him, but the local crows allowed him to travel with them and watch as they hunted and foraged. They shared no food with him, he still had to come to me for that. I fed him using carved chopsticks, which he would frequently tear from my grip and take away. I watched him flip them around every way he could, and his frustration at not being able to make them work was obvious. He would then either hide them or pound them into shreds. To raise him was an extremely rewarding experience.

  2. I sometimes feel the same about chopsticks as Steve's crow. ;-)