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How Do Crows Feel about Humans?

The next time you're thinking of shooing away a bird, perhaps because it's being too noisy or trying to steal from your garden, think twice: At least one avian species will probably remember you. Researchers in Seattle have learned that not only will crows seek vengeance on humans who have offended them -- dive-bombing their two-legged foes, for example -- but they also have memory-storing brain regions that are very similar to those found in mammals. One study showed that crows that had been captured remembered the face of their captors for years after the act -- and were not happy to see them again. In a follow-up study, researchers wore one of two masks, depending on whether they were involved in capturing the crows or feeding them in the days that followed. Using glucose fluid and brain scans, the researchers were able to see which parts of the birds' brains were active at different times. While the captors' appearance lit up a brain section involved with negative connotations, the feeders were viewed more like social partners, rather than enemies. The activated brain regions in the crows closely corresponded to similar regions in the human brain.

Close-up of crows:

  • Hundreds of crows will often mingle around a fallen comrade, perhaps to learn of threats that might put all of them in danger.
  • Crows also unite to attack predators, with individuals taking turns to dive-bomb and scare off the enemy.
  • It's popularly known that the collective term for crows is a "murder," but some bird lovers oppose the negative image it gives to the birds.
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