Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fuzzy people 55: why I like crows

When I was a small child, my mother adopted an American Crow who'd been injured--maybe fallen out of the nest--and had a crippled leg as a result. He was smart as hell, however, and quickly learned to recognize both the mauve plastic cup and the sound of it being tapped which meant there were chicken livers to be had. We called him Charlie.

It was one of the first close communicative bonds I'd ever had with an undomesticated animal, and there are still some old Polaroid snapshots, yellowed and curling at the edges, of my brother, myself, and Charlie. Eventually we had to have him (safely) relocated by the Fish & Wildlife folks, because he started pecking at my toddler brother's flaxen hair when he was outside in the playpen. But there's a Nisg'a raven tattooed on my left shoulder, to join the other totem animals with which I've marked my body. And my First Peoples DNA is only half the reason for that. The other half is Charlie.

I thought of him when I saw this: New Caledonian crow who figures out not only how to use a tool (a bent piece of wire that lets her reach food at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical tube) but--Jesus!--how to make it. This crow analyzes the situation, realizes she can't reach the food, realizes there's a bail on the little food canister, picks up the wire, realizes the straight wire won't help her, wedges the end so she can bend a hook into the wire (which is precisely the same technique that plumbers use to get clean bends in pipe), and successfully extracts the food.

The kicker? She repeated the task successfully, nine more times.

The Universe is a remarkable, magical place, filled with remarkable sentient beings.

That's why we shouldn't kill them.

Oneowe, Charlie.

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