Monday, September 25, 2006

That's the way the crow flies


One of the cleverest (or should I say cunning ) birds in the whole wide world (www in short) is the Common Crow ! I suppose all of you have read the story of the clever crow and the pot of water. The water level was too low, so the crow dropped stones in the pot till the water rose and he/she could drink it.

Read this article from an Indian newspaper

The remarkable talent of a crow has challenged the chimpanzee's fame as the most proficient toolmaker in the animal world. A crow can make a hook from an ordinary piece of wire. Crows make and use a range of tools including hooks, which they use to extract food from cracks and crevices. But the crow has now shown that it can design and manufacture a tool from materials with which it has no previous experience.

These skills came to light when two crows were given a choice between a straight wire and a hook to extract a bucket of food from the bottom of a plastic pipe. When the male bird made off with the hook, the female bent the tip of the straight wire to make a replacement. To bend the wire, the crows sometimes hold it in their feet, then pulled the tip with the beak.

Crows make hooks from twigs and leaves and generally do not get materials like wires that bend and retain their shape. The bird's ability to make the right tool for the job from unfamiliar materials suggests that crows have some understanding of the properties of the material and what might be achieved with a hook.

Crows seem to have acquired a grip on basic physics and engineering. They have learned that they need to drop walnuts with thicker shells from greater heights in order to break them open. They seem to know that nuts dropped on asphalt and concrete surfaces need not be dropped from a great height, but if the crow is flying above soft earth, it will fly higher before dropping the nut.

Possibly then, the old story of the crow and the pot of water may well be true.

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