A Crow Named Bob

Considered one of the most intelligent species

July 5, 2022

The species Corvus – commonly known as a crows, ravens, and jackdaws – are considered some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. They have been documented to construct ‘tools’ from materials, can recognize specific people and animals of other species, and work cooperatively together to achieve goals.

Crows were frequent visitors to our backyard in Kirkland, often challenging the squirrels for a food source.

For purposes of today’s Tuesday Newsday, we shall refer to this bird simply as ‘crows.’ I chose the first week in July to highlight crows as I propose that the national symbol of the United States could just as easily been a crow rather than an eagle.

Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin suggested the turkey as the national bird but others thought the eagle to be more majestic. In terms of sheer intelligence, cleverness, and persistence, however, it is the crow which dominates. These attributes, to me, more closely encapsulate the nature of Americans.

The Infallible Wikipedia shares the following:

“As a group, crows show remarkable examples of intelligence. Natural history books from the 18th century recount an often-repeated, but unproven anecdote of ‘counting crows’ — specifically a crow whose ability to count to five (or four in some versions) is established through a logic trap set by a farmer. Crows and ravens often score very highly on intelligence tests. Certain species top the avian IQ scale. Wild hooded crows in Israel have learned to use bread crumbs for bait-fishing. Crows engage in a kind of mid-air jousting, or air-“chicken” to establish pecking order. They have been found to engage in activities such as sports, tool use, the ability to hide and store food across seasons, episodic-like memory, and the ability to use individual experience in predicting the behavior of proximal conspecifics. (snip)

A crow seems to find these baby toys irresistible. AvesNoir.com

The western jackdaw and the Eurasian magpie have been found to have a nidopallium about the same relative size as the functionally equivalent neocortex in chimpanzees and humans, and significantly larger than is found in the gibbons.

Crows have demonstrated the ability to distinguish individual humans by recognizing facial features. Evidence also suggests they are one of the few nonhuman animals, along with insects like bees or ants, capable of displacement (communication about things that are not immediately present, spatially or temporally). (snip)

In the past there have been plenty of studies conducted on how ravens and corvids in general learn. Some of these studies have concluded that the brains of ravens and crows compare in relative size to great apes. The encephalization quotient (EQ), helps to expose the similarities between a great ape brain and a crow/raven brain. This includes cognitive ability. Even though the brain differs significantly between mammals and birds we can see larger forebrains in corvids than other birds (except some parrots), especially in areas associated with social learning, planning, decision making in humans and complex cognition in apes. Along with tool use, ravens can recognize themselves in a mirror.”

Here in the Pacific Northwest, crows are everywhere. But that was not always the case. They were rare at the beginning of the 20th century.

Recently, the hubby and I had a crow encounter which we are unable to explain. While strolling down a sidewalk in the Fairhaven neighborhood of Bellingham, a crow swooped low over the hubby’s head, causing both of us to duck. When the crow repeated the action less than a minute later – this time making contact with the hubby’s hair – we knew it was not a random event. We wonder if the hubby’s head, slightly sunburned and shiny on a small spot at the crown, attracted its attention. Regardless, we did not wish to tempt the bird a third time and crossed the street to safety.

Their reputation for collecting shiny objects is based on this behavior. https://kids.britannica.com/

It was another crow encounter, in July of 2005, which became the reason I think the crow should have been our national bird.

I was, along with hundreds of others, at the Sundome in Yakima, Washington, for the Washington/Idaho Rainbow Girls annual convention.

Somehow, a crow had gotten into the building but, apparently, had no way to get out. No worries for the crow, as it swooped and flew around the large space, entertaining the girls, their families, and advisors.

The young woman who was leading the group that year dubbed the crow “Bob” in honor of a group of adult volunteers who had formed a vocal quartet named “The Bob’s” as all the men were named Bob.

For three days Bob flew around the building and was seen alighting on chairs and backdrops – pretty much anywhere. I imagine finding food was not an issue as, no doubt, more than a few snacks were likely consumed – and morsels dropped – by the attendees.

It was on the last day, July 10, when a scenario so perfect occurred that a Hollywood screen writer could not have scripted it better.

The moment had arrived for the Stars and Stripes to be returned from its place of honor on the main stage to the back of the room. This job fell to one of the young women present who – with great reverence – arrived at the flag, bowed to it, and then hoisted it aloft to carry it down a ramp and across the large convention center floor.

Lee Greenwood’s God Bless The USA played over the loud speaker as all eyes watched her procession. Then Bob stole the show.

The crow soared high across the arena, landing on the top of the loudspeaker system just below the ceiling, at the center of the dome. He paused for a moment and then, when the flag bearer was directly underneath him, he flapped his wings and flew in the same direction as she was walking, disturbing confetti which had likely settled on the loudspeaker a week earlier during Fourth of July celebrations.

Tiny red, white, and blue tissue paper glittered in the lights as it filled the air and swirled to the floor.

It was the most awe inspiring patriotic moment I’ve ever experienced.

I was able to confirm that Bob – like the rest of us – departed the Sundome later that evening to go back to his regular life. From the writeup in the Rainbow Girls newsletter:

“Of course, this article would not be complete without mention of Bob the bird. He appeared during set-up and stayed throughout all of the sessions, often coming to visit in the East, taking a bath in the decorations or sitting in the middle of the floor. He enjoyed the sessions and no one will soon forget our special visitor. And for those who may be wondering, Bob did leave the Sundome as the clean up process was coming to an end on Sunday night.”

Well done, Bob, well done. You are a credit to your species and an inspiration to us all.

The Links:



Washington/Idaho Rainbow Girls webpage: https://www.nwrainbow.org/

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