Crows are among the world’s most intelligent birds. Ravens, magpies, and different types of crows all show remarkable abilities. They can plan an action in several steps, manufacture and use tools, fish with bait, and even speak. Some also fancy being petted like a dog. We’ve found 12 videos that show why a crow is as intelligent as a chimpanzee or a 7-year-old child.
Crows can be very old. A 20-year lifespan is not unusual, and the oldest known crow in the wild was almost 30 years old. In captivity, the oldest crow died at age 59.
They also have a good memory and can recognize individual humans years later. That has gotten them popular with the CIA. Above all, the large, black – and slightly terrifying – ravens were considered particularly suitable as spies.
The ravens could learn to distinguish between different kinds of objects.
“If you’ve got a big desk and a little desk, you could train it to always go to the small one,” says Bob Bailey, who worked on the CIA’s raven project, in an interview with Smithsonian Magazine. He also claims that the ravens could carry quite heavy objects and even open drawers.
Ravens were used in sharp situations, Bailey suggests.
“We got the ravens into places […] Usually using diplomatic pouches,” he says and explains that he once took a raven onboard a regular flight, completely against regulations.
“It was in a map case under the front seat, and every now and then the raven would make a noise,” says Bob Bailey. It made him wriggle in his seat.