Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What do crows know?

In the Science section of today’s NT Times, there was an article about crows, about their awareness of the death of one of their species.  The tale was right out of Edgar Allan Poe, but in this case, it involved Seattle, a University of Washington biology experiment, a masked researcher, a taxidermied crow, and a murder of crows eating peanuts and cheese puffs.  The researchers’ question is: “What do crows understand about death?”  Each time the experiment takes place and the researchers show up with the dead crow, the live crows react with hostility mobbing the “corpse-bearing volunteers.”  Mike Rowe, take note-- this might be a good dirty job for you, but it is one that I personally would not volunteer to do.  At the end of the article, it said that as far as we know so far only crows, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and scrub jays respond this way to death.  It makes me think these researchers have never had dogs or cats or even other birds.  My sister told me about how her friend’s parakeet responded to the death of one of his babies two weeks ago.  The father bird went into mourning and died a few days later.  The mother started pulling out her feathers and remains in distress.  Why is it we humans think that we are the only ones that feel, the only ones that know grief and loss?  I recently lost a colleague who worked with me for many years, and I post this crow’s feather that I drew some time ago with the wish that like birds, we will grieve and anger at her sudden death, and then allow her spirit to fly off into the heavens.

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