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Is there anyone who hasn’t heard the story of the clever crow who gathered pebbles and put them into a pitcher to raise the too low water level, and thus quenched its thirst? I bet not. It is one of the most well known of Aesop’s fables.

The intelligence of crows is no longer the stuff of mere fables. Studies show us just how remarkably smart they are. Crows recognize faces and know people by their voice. They conspire with one another and pass on information about people who have harmed them to those crows who have not been witness to happenings. And believe it or not, the new set of crows are able to correctly pinpoint perpetrators from among a crowd without ever having seen them before. Pretty impressive, huh?

Crows are not past trying to fool their fellow crows. Who can blame them? After all it is a competitive world out there. One has gotta do what one has, to keep hunger at bay. When they find food, they don’t exactly want to share it with others, so they pretend to hide it in one place while stealthily stashing it away elsewhere. Being birds of the same feather, the other crows are not going to let this pass without some brilliant counter moves on their part to get at the cache of food. A race against each other, what?

Crows also have problem-solving ability. Yeah, the Aesop’s fable has already familiarized us all with it. But in the modern world, scientists have gone and proved it through experiments for real. Though I am no scientist (nor have I conducted experiments), I have found this to be true by mere observation.

There’s a round tray of water I have kept for the birds on the low roof  of an outside bathroom. I admit, it is all selfishness on my part that made me do it. Umm… well, may be not all selfishness, because I do want the winged thingamabobs in my neighborhood to quench their thirst. But I also wanted to take pictures of them while they were at it.

That’s how I happened to catch the crows at their problem solving best. They brought pieces of dried rotis (Indian flat bread) and dunked them in the water in the tray. They held them in place with their feet, lifting it up with their beak, and then dunking them again repeatedly. Once the pieces were as soft as they desired, the crows ate, or else fed their offspring, who in the classic manner of Oliver Twist, seemed always to ask for more.

©Shail Mohan 2018

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