Crows – Playing Tricks

Music
Ambience: Crows, Ravens

Native Alaskan tribes tell stories of the trickster raven stealing food and deceiving humans into giving him want he wants. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Crows and Ravens have earned their reputation as wily birds, says Candace Savage, author of the book “Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Avian World.”

“There are all kinds of stories about ravens flying up to the peak of roofs with pebbles or nuts in their mouths and letting them go clattering down metal roofs and then going to the eaves and picking them up and letting them roll down again. Crows and ravens sliding down snowy slopes, or even sometimes pushing snow up into mounds so they can slide down them, over and over again.”

Crows and ravens don’t just entertain themselves – sometimes their tricks quite useful.

“Scientists in the last ten years or so have been trying to determine whether or not ravens intentionally play tricks on one another. And the best circumstance for observing their tricky behavior is in their food-hiding maneuvers. Ravens congregate around carcasses; they steal bits of food; they go off and hide them. If another raven sees, then the hiding raven will take maneuvers to, will fly off to hide their food in private. The raven that’s watching will be looking in this way, will be pretending not to be watching at all, looking off to the side, but actually, out of the corner of their eye, paying very, very close attention, will wait after the food has been hidden and the other raven’s gone off. And only after the coast is clear, fly in really quickly to try to get the food.”

Not all ravens and crows have to use tricks to get their dinner, though: some of these intelligent birds have actually developed tools to do the job. We’ll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Crows - Playing Tricks

Crows and ravens are not only tricksters in Native Alaskan mythology - sometimes their wily games even help them to snag a free dinner.
Air Date:04/16/2010
Scientist:
Transcript:

Music
Ambience: Crows, Ravens

Native Alaskan tribes tell stories of the trickster raven stealing food and deceiving humans into giving him want he wants. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Crows and Ravens have earned their reputation as wily birds, says Candace Savage, author of the book "Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Avian World."

"There are all kinds of stories about ravens flying up to the peak of roofs with pebbles or nuts in their mouths and letting them go clattering down metal roofs and then going to the eaves and picking them up and letting them roll down again. Crows and ravens sliding down snowy slopes, or even sometimes pushing snow up into mounds so they can slide down them, over and over again."

Crows and ravens don't just entertain themselves - sometimes their tricks quite useful.

"Scientists in the last ten years or so have been trying to determine whether or not ravens intentionally play tricks on one another. And the best circumstance for observing their tricky behavior is in their food-hiding maneuvers. Ravens congregate around carcasses; they steal bits of food; they go off and hide them. If another raven sees, then the hiding raven will take maneuvers to, will fly off to hide their food in private. The raven that's watching will be looking in this way, will be pretending not to be watching at all, looking off to the side, but actually, out of the corner of their eye, paying very, very close attention, will wait after the food has been hidden and the other raven's gone off. And only after the coast is clear, fly in really quickly to try to get the food."

Not all ravens and crows have to use tricks to get their dinner, though: some of these intelligent birds have actually developed tools to do the job. We'll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.