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Catalog Number 2008.013.017
Object Name Records
Title UW research shows crows may hold a grudge
Scope & Content 2007-07_crow research at UW.doc
UW research shows crows may hold a grudge
05:51 PM PDT on Monday, July 30, 2007


The crows seem to verbally attack whoever is wearing the mask, regardless if it's a researcher or TV reporter.
SEATTLE - Researchers at the University of Washington are proving crows are smarter than most people think. They may actually be able to recognize individual people and hold a grudge against them.
A year-and-a-half ago, UW researchers wore a caveman mask when they captured, tagged and released seven crows. Since then, they have taken regular strolls through campus.
Professor John Marzloff starts the experiment by walking around without the mask in plain view. The crows in the area seem to pay no attention to him.
But, once he slips on the mask and retraces his route, the crows start chattering. After a few steps, the crows begin scolding him. If he takes the mask off - nothing.
"They're flying around and they could attract enough attention to bring others," says Marzloff.
So, is this how crows learn? Do they gather at the sound of such scoldings to see what's going on or did these birds witness for themselves that capture a year ago? Could it be something much more human-like?
"It could be something they're able to pass from one bird that's learned from experience to pass on to another bird. That's what we're really looking at," says student researcher Shannon Pecoraro.
Marzloff and Pecoraro then decided to concentrate on young crows -- birds born long after that capture a year and a half ago.
From the moment he emerges as Cro-Magnon, Pecoraro gets a crow-scolding. Even young birds are joining in. In fact, the researchers have found the mask is becoming more recognizable every day since the capture.

UW student researcher Shannon Pecoraro strolls around campuys sporting the cro-magnon mask while crows scold him.
"After that, about ten percent of the birds on campus to about 30 percent would scold as we walked around campus and recorded who responded or not. Now, it's more like 40 to 50 percent," says Marzloff.
But, let's look at it this way. These guys are crow researchers. They've been around the crows a long time. Maybe the crows are picking up their physical mannerism, like the way they walk or their body size.
I decided to give it a real test by putting on the mask myself. The crows don't know me, but they know the mask.
Turns out, the scolding begins and continues as long as I stay there.
What's all this prove? Well, next time you hear a bunch of noisy crows, listen up. They may be trying to tell you something.
The UW research is gaining a lot of interest. Law enforcement agencies are interested in applying it to everything from search and rescue missions to security alerts.

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Accession number 2008.013.017