Do Crows learn from Death? The simple answer, YES! Below I’ll be going into minor details on how, and also why!
This has been a topic I’ve been astonished with since I first heard about it. The intelligence corvids (American crows) possess is insane. Crows have something in their brain that other birds don’t have. They have a region in their brain similar to a primate (human) Prefrontal Cortex- a region of the brain for higher thinking and decision making (Viet & Nieder, 2013). Not only do they have something that complex, their hippocampus is extremely advanced.
The hippocampus is an area of the brain associated with forming new memories, as well as learning and emotion. Crows use this function to learn from danger and remember it for the future. For example, if you were to hurt/kill a crow in the same area as one lives, the living crow won’t only not forget your face, it will also hold a grudge against you!
If that doesn’t blow your mind already, crows also hold something similar to a funeral. It’s a process called “scolding”. During this process, crows let out a cry to inform other nearby crows that there is danger in the area. A study in 2015 (Swift & Marzluff), found that crows took longer to approach areas that are associated with death to search for food. They also learn about new predators that are close to their dead friends.
While all this is taking place, crows also learn and change their behavior for better chance of survival. All these novel experiences, like the new faces of humans and watching how other crows have died, instantly get ingrained in their brain and get passed down to their offspring!!!
Maybe next time, we’ll all be a little nicer to these smart birds 🙂