Crows Got Tool Talent!

Thanks to cameras attached to the tail feathers of some New Caledonian crows, researchers have now observed the birds building tools and using them in the wild.

These elusive creatures were seen fashioning hooked stick tools to root out food – a remarkable discovery that sheds a bit of light on animal thought processes.

Or if it doesn’t, at least it shows us animal thought as interpreted via the cranial processes of humans like study author Jolyon Troscianko of the University of Exeter, in England.

“In one scene,” Troscianko said, “a crow drops its tool and then recovers it from the ground shortly afterward, suggesting they value their tools and don’t simply discard them after a single use.”

This is a likely explanation. But it is only one, and it assumes crows think like us, which may not be the case! I can think of at least three other options.

  1. The crow dropped its tool, forgot about it completely, and then in an “aha” moment, picked a hooked stick it suddenly found at its feet.
  2. The crow dropped the tool on purpose to fake out the potential food, and then grabbed the tool again when the mistakenly relieved morsel slithered into a more exposed location.
  3. The crow dropped the hooked stick when it realized it had a camera stuck to its tail and it was giving away the company secrets. And then picked the stick up again when it thought, “oh what the Hell,” if I keep acting like I’m committed to the hooked stick, they’ll never find out about all our other crow-made tools, like the cawk gun.”

Hard to know exactly what is going on in the tiny mind of a clever crow.

If scientists pasted a camera to your tail, what tool would they see you use?

69 thoughts on “Crows Got Tool Talent!”

  1. I’m afraid that if scientists pssted the camera to my tail, they would not see much of anything-maybe the basement stairs? I’m up and down them all day.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Oh Dear–this question just begs for all kinds of bathroom humor and comments. My mind is now working like that of a 12 year old boy. And at first I thought the idea of a camera on the tail feathers was one of Bud Buck’s schemes to cover the news from his self-absorbed irrelevant universe. Then I see it is real? Maybe the camera could help me distinguish what is real or not.

    Meanwhile, all it would see is the area behind the chair I sit in to do therapy. Not too interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I would have to have more than one tool attached to my tail…some for inside: computer, iPad…some for outside: manure fork, hay fork, hay hook, shovel. (oops, time to go out and use the latter….)


  4. I’m also reminded of friends who tild us over the holidays they got a Go-Pro camera to record their daughter’s synchrinized swimming from her point-of-view.

    Thing is, the camera on her fi rhead bugged her, so she pushed it back and they got stunning footage of the ceiling above the pool.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. you would be catching me at a good time. i have lots of tools comong out htese days. little jobs that need doing during the move in process. yesterday the drill came out and needed the socket set and screwdriver accessories to make it work properly on an installation i was doing, the other jobs i have been doing are similar uninteresting tasks but tools are involved. in moving the bed there were two screws form ikea that got misplaced and the ikea customer service dept the day after christmas was not busy i was very surprised (of course by the time they were done with me there was a line,.the item i need parts for evidently got discontinued in the 10 years since i bought it.
    i have painting sawing sanding spackling fashioning a furnace filter adapter mounting tv brackets on the walls hanging window treatments and sawing additional bookshelves for the bookshelf in my bedroom that made the interesting move over in spite of the cries of indignation by fellow movers at the idiot who would make a shelf 1 feet long that didnt break down. (but its such a wonderful bookshelf).
    the main tool would be my computer ipad and iphone for vital communication based stuff i need to be in constant interaction with.
    a day without apple would be a day without a brain. the world is too wired for my liking these days but in dismantling it dont start with me,,, end with me.


    1. I’m encouraged, tim. You have made great progress thrashing this new computer into obedience, I’d say you have already won the battle to get rid of capitol letters, although your post is clear and just not as opaque as usual, so you have work to do to get back to your normal voice. But you’re getting there. How nice to see that “from” is “form” again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. it is 11 feet long. what a random length but it fits in my current bedroom by 1/4 of an inch. it covers the door rim but not the doorway. the last house we had a heck of a time bringing it up the stairs . this house ther was no way so we had to hoist it up over two balconies to get it to the bedroom. y assistants thought i was nuts but i worked slicker than snot on a doorknob.


      1. I’m fond of the Bose. It was a parting gift when I was nudged out of my last office job, and I wasn’t sure I really needed it, but I must admit it’s nice to have a radio/CD player with a remote. I used to have to actually get up and walk across the room and twist a dial to change radio stations, before the Bose.

        It has very nice sound for a small device.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Unless a salad fork is a tool, the only tool I use these days is my computer. And a camera on my tail would have a poor view of that, as my tail is usually planted in a chair.

    Oh . . . yesterday I also used the phone, speaking to the party to whom I was speaking. One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy, . . .

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I am not sure what tool a camera would show if it was pasted on my tail. If I had long tail feathers the camera might provide a view of me using the tools I frequently use to do repairs such as my screwdrivers or my pliers. Due to my lack of tail feathers,I think the only tool a camera on my tail might show is a back scratcher if I had one.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The camera SHOULD be showing a vacuum in use as I have book club guests tomorrow night. Need to get off this communication screen.
    Last night would have shown a couple of frying pans as I caramelized 6 pounds of onions for the French Onion Soup I will be serving. That is a process!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Most days, the camera would see the back of a chair (like Jacque – only I would be facing a computer screen, not a live human being). Last few days, it might catch a basset hound following me around the kitchen hoping I will drop a tasty morsel or two. Might see the back of a different chair (or the couch) today if Daughter and I go into Dr Who binge-watching mode again…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Today it would have recorded me tearing out of the house after hurriedly rolling a batch of hot Russian Tea Cakes in powdered sugar, this after I got a call from my hair dresser that I had forgot my appointment. Back home now and getting on with some baking.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. HI–
    What a cool story.

    Speaking of animals; for christmas I got the book ‘The Oregon Trail’ by Rinker Buck. I have learned a lot about mules.

    I haven’t used too many tools the last week. Like others, too much sitting the last few days.
    But today I used my micro leatherman to fix my moms bedroom fan. And I used a miter saw and a table saw to cut some old barn boards for Kelly.
    And I used a mechanical pencil and a tape measure. And my phone as a notepad.
    And I bought a new wireless router at BB. (Hi Anna!)

    tomorrow I will use the tractor and snowblower. East wind here; the driveway will be terrible.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My best opportunity to use a tool at Christmas was a need for my pocket knife…and I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t in my pocket. 😦 May need to think up an excuse to use some tools…


  12. In order of appearance, I have used today: frying pans, picture books and toys, automobile, mom’s walker, grocery cart, credit card, debit card, library card, toaster oven, cork screw, scissors and tape, gift bags, photo album…
    I know, it’s a stretch to call some of these a tool, but in each case they helped me to get something important accomplished.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Same here in St Paul, maybe less.

      No snow emergency which technically means under 3″. I am somewhat disappointed, although I do need to get the forgotten kitty litter (actually not forgotten as such, thought I still had a back-up bucket).

      Kitties looked out the back door and decided, um, no.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Five inches of snow is five more than we have here in Happy Valley. It amuses me that my daughter is so nostalgic for snow and white Christmases. But her romantic memories of Minnesota snowstorms don’t include shoveling sidewalks or desperately digging a car out of a world of snow on the street so it could be moved before it got ticketed or hauled off to the impound lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will admit that I love snow, but am not as excited when it snows a lot overnight and I have to deal w/ it before going to work. I prefer Camelot snow that happens on the weekends!

      Liked by 5 people

  14. Evening–
    We had somewhere between 4 and 6. It was so windy there are drifts everywhere so it’s hard to say how much snow we really got.
    Driveway probably averaged about 6″ deep with many drifts.
    I put up 400′ of snow fence this fall; added an extra 100′ over our usual. But that new end didn’t really help much. Maybe if the wind was more straight out of the North it would help… it was too much Easterly this time.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. after our 300+ foot driveway the new one seems puny. takes 30 minutes to do the drive and the sidewalk. i have noticed there is a spot where the driveway and the sidewalk mee there is no where nearby to pile the snow. ah learning the nuances of the new life situation is like courting a new lover. you just have to get used to the quirks

    Liked by 2 people

  16. My roommate was smart and advised me to move the car into the alley in the morning before the snow ever started, rather than waiting until evening when I might have to scrape before I could shift her. Moving the car whenever measurable snow is predicted has become our policy, after a year in which we dug out the car from snowstorms three or four times–and incidentally figured out that I had cold-triggered asthma.


  17. One of the most momentous changes in my life was when my erstwife left and I could begin parking my car in the garage, not out on the street. What a joy it was to know that storms could do their worst, but my car was safe in its little shed.

    Before that, I lived for over thirty years worrying about getting my car moved before it would get ticketed or towed. One winter just before Christmas it snowed a lot. Then came warm weather to melt the snow, followed by a cold snap that froze the melted snow rock hard. I had a car with four tires locked in a huge sheet of ice. I worked feverishly for four hours to chop enough ice to free the car ahead of the hauling trucks. No wonder Minnesotans move to Arizona in winter.


  18. Greetings. Just light snow here. I have a guest post that I can submit probably tonight. Husband is up on the reservation and will stay there all week, playing in a band with other staff at a sober New Year’s party. No snow in the forecast for here. Our neighbors obsessively shovel any bit of snow off their driveways. We are not so ambitious.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. After I bought my house I discovered early on that putting the car in the garage presented its own set of difficulties. The first garage had side-by-side doors that swung outward, so you had to shovel a large half-circle in front of it to even open the doors. Then if the plows had gone by, there was a giant plow ridge to shovel in order to get the car to the street, and sometimes the ridge turned to ice if you didn’t get to it immediately. I quickly decided that it was easier to park in the street.

    Yesterday the snow wasn’t deep enough to present any problem. I took the car to my favorite Starbucks, where they have heated underground parking. Brushed most of the snow off and let the rest melt off.

    Then I went to see the Treasures of Napoleon exhibit, on a whim.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Reminds me of that joke letter that’s been around for years…

      December 9: We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the whole world? Moving here was the best idea I’ve ever had. I shoveled snow for the first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again! What a perfect life.

      December 12: The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment. My neighbor tells me not to worry, we’ll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we’ll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I’ll never want to see snow again. l don’t think that’s possible. Bob is such a nice man – I’m glad he’s our neighbor.

      December 14: Snow, lovely snow! 8″ last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. l didn’t realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I’ll certainly get back in shape this way. I wish l wouldn’t huff and puff so.

      December 15: 20 inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4×4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for the wife’s car and 2 extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that’s silly. We aren’t in Alaska, after all.

      December 16: Ice storm this morning. Fell on my butt on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt like hell. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.

      December 17: Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for 5 hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should’ve bought a wood stove, but won’t admit it to her. God I hate it when she’s right. I can’t believe I’m freezing to death in my own living room.

      December 20: Electricity’s back on, but had another 14″ of stupid snow last night. More shoveling. Took all day. That stupid snowplow came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they’re too busy playing hockey. I think they’re lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they’re out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they’re lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he’s lying.

      December 22: Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white stuff fell today, and it’s so cold it probably won’t melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to use the restroom. By the time I got undressed, went and dressed again. I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter; but he says he’s too busy. I think the jerk is lying.

      December 23: Only 2″ of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What is she, nuts? Why didn’t she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did, but I think she’s lying.

      December 24: 6″ today. Snow packed so hard by snowplow, l broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the jerk who drives that snowplow, I’ll drag him through the snow by his hair. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at about 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I’ve just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was busy watching for that stupid snowplow.

      December 25: Merry Christmas. 20 more inches of the !=3D@x@!x!x1 slop tonight. Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. God I hate the snow! Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she’s an idiot. If I have to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” one more time, I’m going to kill her.

      December 26: Still snowed in. Why the hell did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She’s really getting on my nerves.

      December 27: Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze.

      December 28: Warmed up to above -50. Still snowed in. THAT WOMAN is driving me crazy!!!!!

      December 29: 10 more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That’s the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

      December 30: Roof caved in. The snow plow driver is suing me for a million dollars. The wife went home to her mother. 9″ predicted.

      December 31: Set fire to what’s left of the house. No more shoveling.

      January 8: I feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Why am I tied to the bed?

      Liked by 4 people

  20. Camera on my tail feathers? The tools you would see are shoes, primarily tennis—that’s old fashion for tennis shoes or walking shoes, or running shoes (which I don’t do), or house shoes (which I do), or no shoes. I’d say shoes are my regular tool in all kinds of colors and comfort.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi–
      Pretty quiet on the trail today.
      I was stuck for a while in a vicious quagmire at the bank today. Had to sign some papers which we did at home and I simply he to drop off at the bank.
      Except I missed one spot. So back to Kelly at work and back to the bank and then I mess up the order of the pages which didn’t seem like a big deal to me but the banker was kinda put out about it.
      He was being a real tool about it. Ha!
      Finally sorted that out but the last bit was with the bank manager and I may have gotten the other guy in trouble with a random, seemingly innocent comment I made. Oops.
      Finally got to ‘work’ work and shoveled off the loading doc, tried to use a fax machine but for unknown reasons my faxes failed.
      Resorted to email instead.
      Then used a sewing machine to shorten curtains for daughters room.

      Stay warm and safe out there.


  21. im initiating guest blog sign up for 2016
    dale used to go on vacation and we covered it . now we are not getting regular posts because lord know when or if the next one is coming.
    how about a monday wednesday friday offering until we get into the swing of things. i will commit to a post to be in 2 days early to be posted on mondays for the month of january. does anyone want to commit or the first wednesday and friday of january and we will get caught up on the rest of january as we go?
    love reading comments but 3 or 4 days is not the way to do it between posts if we want to continue.


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