Something to crow about: Those birds are smarter than they look | Lifestyles


Whenever people talk about a past life, they often say they were pharaohs or possibly a lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette or maybe a famous Russian ballet star. I am not sure if I believe in past lives, but if I was something before my current life, I’m pretty sure I was a crow.

Not because I particularly like crows. They’re loud and territorial and have always struck me as being a little on the judgy side.

I prefer cardinals, robins and even blue jays, but after reading an article on crows, I’ve learned there is more to your average crow than I thought. Crows have always been considered bright, but now scientists think they’re even smarter than anyone has given them credit for.

The article explained that crows “know what they know and can ponder their own minds,” which makes me think crows are ahead of many humans, although I don’t completely understand the “know what they know” remark. It reminds me of the expression “this is this” as well as “it is what it is.” I find both of those expressions confusing because how could this be anything but this, and “it is what it is” always struck me as stating the obvious, but that might just be me.

Back to crrows knowing what they know, just like people. Well, I’m not so sure that most people really do know what they know. I’m guessing that when it comes right down to it, we all know a lot more than we think we do.

Or maybe a lot less, depending on the situation.

Sure, we might “know” red is our color until the sad day someone says your new red dress not only brings out the bags under your eyes, it also reminds them of one of those double-decker buses barreling down a London street.

Or maybe we don’t “know” — but most likely should — that most of the time things are going to turn out just fine and we shouldn’t waste so much time fretting over the details. Are those the kinds of things crows know they know?

Let’s move onto the second part of that statement, which is also a puzzler, the part about crows being able to ponder their own mind. I did some pondering myself and tried to decide just what that meant. I know for a fact that I don’t know my own mind very well. There have been more times than I care to remember when I’ve headed out on a shopping spree for blue jeans only to come home hours later with sandals, half a dozen earrings and a new movie star autobiography but no jeans, not even a pair of denim capris.

And that’s just something as superficial as shopping. We won’t get into knowing your mind over anything more challenging like if you really don’t like tennis because your mother loved it and wiped the court with you every time you played with her. Who knows? Maybe you could have gotten a tennis scholarship to college and made something of yourself if only you’d known your own mind — and backhand — a little better back then.

But enough about confusing phrases and psyche delving. What I’d really like to know is how scientists can tell what crows are thinking. The article used some very scientific words, words I have never heard of and am too lazy to look up, such as “telencephalic pallium” and “laminar,” but from what I can glean, at least what I think I glean, is that no one really knows why crows are so smart. In other words, “it is what it is.”

I found another article to see what else crows is good at and learned several interesting facts, such as they are as smart as a 7-year-old, use tools to solve problems and recognize human faces.

Crows also plan for the future and adapt well to new situations, two traits I would hazard to say aren’t always shared by many creatures without feathers.

But what I find most interesting about crows is that they remember what people did and they talk about humans with other crows. Yes, I’m definitely starting to think I might have been a crow in a past life.

Nell Musolf is a freelance writer based in Mankato. She can be reached at nmusolf@gmail.com.

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