Something to Crow About

Some of you may be aware that crows (who are corvids, like magpies and Clark’s Nutcrackers) are excellent problem solvers and that they are one of the few birds known to engage in tool use.

While there have been a variety of popular press articles describing tool use by New Caledonian crows, in this post I wanted to showcase a few videos that demonstrate visually just how impressive these crows are.

The first video features a New Caledonian crow creating a bent wire hook to fish out a food treat after realizing that a straight piece of wire won’t do the trick. Check it out; it’s pretty incredible:

In a second demonstration of cognitive abilities, the crow employs a sequence of three tools to obtain food reward – using a short stick to withdraw a medium-length stick, using the medium-length stick to obtain a long stick, and then using the long stick to reach the food. As the video notes, this is the first time a non-human animal with no explicit training has been observed using three different tools in the correct sequence to achieve a goal. Again, the video illustrates this feat quite nicely:

Finally, a recent Wired1 article, together with accompanying video, features a New Caledonian crow finding a novel use for a tool, poking a rubber spider. This sort of flexible tool use is quite rare, and crows are the first non-mammals who have demonstrated that they can use a single tool in multiple ways. Here’s the video:

I love how the crow gingerly pokes at the rubber spider and then jumps back – talk about a a familiar looking reaction!

For more information and videos relating to tool usage by New Caledonian crows, you can explore the tool use website2 of the Behavioural Ecology Research Group at the University of Oxford.


1Wired, “Clever Crows Use Tools in New Way,” January 5, 2011.

2Visited on July 11, 2011.

Leave a comment


  1. Laura

     /  July 14, 2011

    Followed you here off your comment on my hub article. Crows fascinate me and I’ve found myself watching them do some amazing stuff. I’ve seen them open tricky food containers out of garbages. Great video too.

  2. Crows really are pretty amazing – I’m planning on doing a future post on how they can recognize individual people and even hold grudges. Glad you enjoyed the videos!

  3. Jolien

     /  March 30, 2012

    I just found your website yesterday, and I totally love it =D Animals can surprise us in so many ways, and they make the world such a beautiful place. I study biology because of them, hopefully I will get to do research on stuff like this!
    Looking forward to future articles!

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