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Pope Peabrain 1
We sure toss around the word
"intelligence". I don't think we humans are the best measure.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on September 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM · Report this
Love this post. jays live in extended families. They are an amazing bird.
Posted by grace on September 13, 2012 at 11:35 AM · Report this
Yeah, corvids rule. I'm pretty sure crows have been observed behaving similarly. Thanks Charles!
Posted by Levislade on September 13, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 4
o please, graduate student, come set up experiments in my back yard that cause jays to gather en masse & screech for a half hour!
Posted by Max Solomon on September 13, 2012 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Tovirus 5
So are you now a full corvid convert?
Posted by Tovirus on September 13, 2012 at 11:51 AM · Report this
She's the first to study this weird behavior!
Posted by STJA on September 13, 2012 at 12:07 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 8
@7 - Oh, look, everybody, it's discovered some rudimentary form of race baiting. How cute.
Posted by MacCrocodile on September 13, 2012 at 12:24 PM · Report this
I think my post some time back might be appropriate here:….
Posted by Neal on September 13, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Report this
Charles Mudede 10
@5. this is the case. yes, corvids are amazing.
Posted by Charles Mudede on September 13, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Report this
biffp 11
Not sure funerals were covered in Gift of the Crows. Our cat once killed a crow, and everytime he went outside for years after the crows would start calling and diving at him.…
Posted by biffp on September 13, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this
You should see how birds act right before migration time. We did a few years ago with an old spruce in our backyard. They will all pile into one tree, and a few spread out in nearby trees, and have a noisy convention -- until suddenly, instantly, all at once, every single bird in that tree flies away, perhaps to another tree conference or perhaps starting on their way. We like to think that this is how they decide when it's time to leave, and where they're going and how to get there.
Posted by K on September 13, 2012 at 1:00 PM · Report this
julie russell 13
Awesome!! If you like stories/observations like this, you should read The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs
Posted by julie russell http:// on September 13, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
It's obvious animals are capable of much more complex behaviors than we used to believe was possible. And some even seem capable of complex reasoning.

But anthropomorphizing behaviors as "funerals" is a stretch. While labeling behaviors with human terms is dubiously useful in a very loose analogous way, I'd caution projecting too much onto animals. We just don't really know what's going on.
Posted by tkc on September 13, 2012 at 1:14 PM · Report this
onion 15
the grad student isn't doing the anthropomorphizing, btw. the popular press is doing it. she was trying to figure out why they do what they do but wasn't making assumptions about it.
Posted by onion on September 13, 2012 at 1:52 PM · Report this
"the more one starts to think about intelligence as not so wonderful or specific to great apes but as a niche that's available to other evolutionary lines or paths."

That's got to be the most Mudedesque phrase yet.
Posted by sarah70 on September 13, 2012 at 2:10 PM · Report this
onion 17
and i have to add...she didn't "discover" the funerals. it was already known that these and other corvids do funerals. she studied WHY they do the funerals.
do you think that she would just randomly decide to start studying what the birds do when they see a dead conspecific? she did these studies because she already knew, from observations made by others, that these birds do something very interesting around dead conspecifics.
now, what she DID do that is totally awesome is study WHY they do this. that is what should be the focus here.
Posted by onion on September 13, 2012 at 4:03 PM · Report this
@12, when I used to live in Factoria, one evening several hundred crows gathered in the trees near my house, just like you describe. There were SO many if them, it seemed like they filled all the trees on my block. They were all cawing their heads off; it was quite a cacophony. Then all at once they took off. I believe they might have been all or some part the huuuuge flock that lives in Mercer Slough, as that's the direction they were headed.
Posted by JenV on September 13, 2012 at 4:34 PM · Report this
venomlash 19
@11: Crows, among other birds, are known for mobbing behaviors. When one sees a predator, such as an owl or a cat, a big group will harass it until it goes away.
Posted by venomlash on September 13, 2012 at 8:53 PM · Report this
I there's a crow who hangs out on the railing of my apartment. It is always really clam and my dog even seems indifferent to it. One day, I was outside with my dog and the crow flew super low to the ground and he chased it. It flew in low tight circles and let my dog chase it. It seemed they were playing. It's quite neat and the two of them have played that chasing game a few times since.
Posted by CbytheSea on September 13, 2012 at 9:08 PM · Report this
bethm 21
I've seen a few crow funerals. They seemed to happen when the birds returned to their neighborhood from their roost first in the morning and found a dead buddy of theirs who didn't make it through the night. They would gather in the trees around the body and the cawing would ebb and flow, until all of a sudden it's just done.

If you pay attention when you hear a lot of crows cawing, and go to where they are, you can usually see something pretty interesting. Either it's going to be a funeral (especially if it's happening at first light, like I mentioned) or it's going to be crows harassing a bald eagle or a hawk.
Posted by bethm on September 14, 2012 at 7:20 PM · Report this

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