By Jamie Lutton
Crow Myths spawned by
I still have not found out the name of the PBS program (which I suppose I could just persist with Goggle, but it did not turn up yet.) I did discover that that PBS program has spawned some wild tales about crows. The show seems to have been broadcast a couple of times, and the tales of the brilliant crows among us has grown in the telling. I have heard all sorts of variants on the tales of the prowess and intellectual ability of crows; a great many of the stories surpass what the program revealed.. The wildest reaction was the young man who told me very seriously that he worried about when the crows would learn how to use matches, as they would become pyromaniacs and burn down our cities. His friend said, jokingly, that he was ready to bow down before his Crow Masters, when they reveal themselves in all their glory.. Most of the stories that were related to me involved tales of the wonderful ability of the crows to recognize faces, and that scientists had to wear masks at the UW so they would not be attacked by crows they had experimented on. Many of the stories involved crows uncanny ability to recognize human beings from great distances.
None of those stories were true; the real studies were far more pedestrian. The PBS program discussed studies of how well the crow populations all over the world adapted to urban environments, that they recognized faces after many years after one short exposure, and that one group of crows in one geographical area in South East Asia seem to be smarter than primates. They could perform many difficult tricks to get food from boxes.
But the general rumor that the crows are brilliant, and are studying mankind, and have been studying mankind forever, seems to have led to a greater respect and affection for the birds. Perhaps people will be less likely to throw rocks, hit them with sticks, poison them, and hate them, if they have heard these tall tales.Perhaps they will learn to understand why they might get divebombed in the spring, when the baby crows are trying their wings out.