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.
Many species of birds push their young to leave the nest and they never see one another again. However, crows in America allow their offspring to stick around for years. Often the parents will have more young before their firstborns leave the nest. The offspring show their appreciation for the continued hospitality by raising the youngest birds in the nest. They do everything from feeding their mother and the babies to protecting the nest from predators. They will also offer protection for their family members who are out looking for food. These sort of “family values” and loyalty are seldom seen in birds.
Researchers found that, while this is not common for all corvids, there have been instances of corvids giving gifts. An eight-year-old Seattle girl made a habit of feeding the crows that would visit her garden. The crows started leaving small items for the girl in the feeder after they finished their meals. The gifts ranged from shiny objects to dead animals - a gift more fitting for a fellow corvid. The girls mother also noted she had dropped a lens cap while photographing some wildlife nearby and she saw it being returned by a crow on their bird camera. Pretty cool!
Dr. Marc Bekoff has studied various animals including corvids and noted they have some interesting rituals to honor fallen friends. Much like other animals, corvids are known to mourn their dead. In one study, Bekoff observed magpies gently prodding a dead magpie with their beaks before retrieving grass and laying it near the deceased. There are many people who recounted also seeing this sort of “service” take place in other corvids such as crows and ravens. While it's not proven that corvids feel grief, there is evidence to support it.
“Quoth the raven, nevermore.” Even though Edgar Allen Poe was a little off his rocker, he may have actually shared some words with a real raven. Corvids are very vocal birds, using squawks and knocks to communicate with one another and to outsiders. Birds such as ravens can imitate noises such as computer notifications and water droplets. But they can also imitate human speech. There are ravens at the Tower of London that will squawk “keep the path” to tourists. They can also mimic the sounds of pets like cats and dogs, and predators such as owls. There is a myth that if you split or fork a crow’s tongue, it will grant it the ability to talk. But this, of course, is just a myth.