Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The persistence of corvidae* memory

*Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds that contains the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, etc.

You could be forgiven, I suppose, for not knowing how smart crows are. Most people think crows are just a loud pain in the ass, but the crow is a noble and handsome beast, one that possesses a wide-ranging dialect and a fierce intelligence. Crows use tools, unlock cages and have even been known to mimic human speech. Scientists who have studied them say that they are somewhere above dogs but below dolphins on the animal intelligence scale. And it appears that they can even remember human faces and subsequently hold a grudge, according to this fascinating article in the New York Times.

So give the crow a break, would you? Next time you stroll through your neighborhood and one barks at you, just cluck back. It's probably just saying hello.

Oh - one more boastful thing: the color image above is an oil painting of a raven I did way back in 2003 for a group show. Some woman bought it, and now I like to think that it hangs in someone's private wood-paneled library, where a gentleman sits under it smoking his curvy pipe in an overstuffed chair.

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