Crows are smart -

Scientists have discovered that crows are, as well as being genuinely scary, clever little buggers.  In an experiment carried out at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, researchers managed to show how the birds were able to perform a series of basic problem-solving functions in order to get to food, an act which exhibits a cognitive capacity that will surely be the envy of footballers throughout the land.

It had previously been found out that the Corvus moneduloides species of crow, indigenous to the island of New Caledonia, were able to both craft and use tools in order get to food, an important discovery as it had up to then been thought that it was only primates who were able to fashion and employ tools.  The recent study however, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed that crows were even smarter than expected when they exhibited the ability to solve a succession of problems in order to achieve a specific aim, according to the BBC .

To find this out, scientists put together what appears to be something like a miniature, low budget, version of hit early nineties TV show Krypton Factor, albeit featuring crows rather than systems analysts from Solihull.  To reach a scrap of food the crows, which were caught in the wild for the purposes of the experiment, had to master three processes.  Firstly it was necessary to pull a short stick dangling from a piece of string, which was then in turn used by the crow to retrieve a larger stick.  Finally the large stick was used to get at the piece of meat.

The birds were allowed to have a practice of each of the sections individually before completing their grand finale of combining the three elements. "All these birds had to do was to put together things they could already do in the right sequence," said Professor Russell Gray who participated in the study.

The birds, part of the corvid family which includes ravens, jays and magpies, were able to perform the procedures perfectly the first time of trying, surpassing researchers expectations. Other members of corvid family have also shown their own high intelligence with the brainy jay even being able to recreate the famous story from Aesop’s Fables, in which a bird drops stones into a jug of water to allow it a drink.