The term "bird brain" is often used to describe someone that acts foolishly or unintelligently. But if you know anything about corvids, you know there are lots of extremely smart birds. Corvids are a type of bird that belongs to what's more commonly known as the crow family. Ravens, jays, and crows - all members of the corvidae family - are arguably the smartest birds in the world. There are plenty of animals with magnificent brains and intelligence, but corvids have an intelligence that is all their own. For being so small, these birds can do a lot of amazing things with their mind.
Why are corvids so smart? There are several different factors that contribute to the superior intelligence of these animals. There are plenty of interesting and amazing corvid facts, and once you read about them here, maybe you'll even start using bird brain as a compliment.
Have you ever seen the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds? The mob mentality displayed by the birds in the horror film is actually sort of a real threat. Corvids will gang up on other creatures - even humans - that have wronged them
Scientists discovered that corvids do not forget, especially when it comes to harming one of their own. In a scientific study examining corvids' ability to recognize faces, researchers found that not only do they remember what people look like, they remember actions. And once wronged, corvids get mad. These mobs form and grow with each encounter. If a corvid sees its friends in the middle of a mob, they will join in on the dive bombing action. They will remember the threat and then jump in again whenever that threat reappears. Imaging of corvid brains shows that certain individuals who were associated with threats activated a part of the brain that is also responsible for learned fear in mammals.
A scientist named Helmut Prior at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, conducted a test of magpies to see if they would be able to recognize themselves in a mirror. Different colored spots were placed on five of the birds in the study. These spots were only visible in the mirror. When the birds with the colored stickers saw themselves in the mirror, they attempted to remove the sticker. The birds with the black stickers did not share the same reaction since they were invisible against their black feathers. This was an incredible discovery because they are one of the very few animals that can recognize themselves, including humans, bottlenose dolphins, four types of apes, and Asian elephants.
There are several species of mammals that have the capacity to remember human faces. Expert John Marzluff and his fellow researchers at the University of Washington set up a study to see if crows could do the same. They wore caveman masks while they went to catch and mark the crows. Each time they came back wearing these masks, the crows would swarm the researchers and attack them. However, if they returned with a different mask, or without a mask at all, they were left alone. The researchers continue to test the birds and they still haven’t forgotten - even after a decade.
There have been multiple studies that highlight a corvid's ability to solve problems and puzzles. In one study, a crow was given a task to complete that involved eight different order specific steps. The crow completed the task, which was the first documented occurrence of a bird completed anything like it.
More public displays of problem solving have been observed by corvids in urban areas too. Crows drop nuts with hard shells into the street and will wait for cars to come crack the shell before swooping down to retrieve the contents. Some crows in parts of the world like the Middle East will use wire mesh to pick up food while separating it from the sand. Rooks have used stones to manipulate water levels in tubes to retrieve food as well.