The Intelligence of Crows

May 14, 2008

I was excited to see  that the latest video on TED.com is about the intelligence of crows. Joshua Klein, hacker and graduate student at NYU, has produced a ten minute video that explores this by showing a crow not just using a tool, but spontaneously modifying it so that it will work to accomplish the task, and later using a device that he created that shows that crows are very trainable. It’s worth a look.

http://static.videoegg.com/ted2/flash/loader.swf

I have had an interest, even love, of crows and ravens ever since I noticed examples of their intelligent behavior. Even more, through the use of dialogue within the imagination, I have had many experiences where I was sure that crows were communicating with me. The raven that resided in the cliffs above the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, a well known site for petroglyphs that may have been a sacred site for Native Americans, seemed to fly over the site occasionally while I was there to protect it- or possibly, as it happened for me, to call attention to the sacred nature of the place. Many of the communication with crow experiences for me happened while I was on a distance run and more than a couple of time I felt that the crows were an aid in directing me when I was unsure of my direction to return to the start of my run in an unfamiliar place.

Another time, a crow insistently cawed from a tree on the shore as my wife, Sandy, and I leisurely kayaked on a small lake in eastern Pennsylvania. Although I sometimes "know" what a crow is communicating to me through my use the imagination, this time I was unsure that it was one of those meaningful events. However, as we rowed along the shore line, the crow stayed a bit ahead of us, continuing to caw, until we reached a point where the shore curved back again and left us more out in the lake proper. At this point Sandy called my attention to two eagles that were circling high above us. As we watched them, they circled lower and lower until one was very close above us, maybe 50 feet. It seemed to hover there and time extended so that there was no awareness of how much time was passing. I became aware that I was entranced, but reminded myself not to think about it lest I lose the moment of the experience by moving to rational consciousness. I was able to return to what felt like the spell of the eagle, who was still there. Suddenly, the eagle flew off, dove into the lake and came up with a fish, and flew off with its partner calling in that odd, high-pitched way they do that sounded to me at that moment like joy. Sandy and I looked at each other  wide-eyed, mouths agape, feeling as though we had just been privileged to a numinous experience with the eagle.- thanks to the crow who seemed to lead us to it.

I know, what I report is not at all scientific, as is Joshua Klien’s, but I have had too many of these kind of experiences to discount them. In fact, you may notice the logo for this site and my web site, The Inward Eye, is a crow who, through dialog in interactive imagery, has been a major support and guide for me in my personal and professional development.

I am sure many people have similar stories. Any of you, dear readers, have any experiences like this you can share?

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