Crows Hold ‘Funerals’ For Their Dead Brethren
When a crow dies, its body becomes the center of a gathering of its fellows. They surround the corpse, call out to each other, and give the body extra kinds of attention. This behavior is seen in crows, jays, magpies, and ravens. However, these rituals serve a more practical purpose than mourning the dead.
Crows are very intelligent birds and have been shown to remember threats and actively avoid anything associated with that threat. For example, during an experiment conducted by Kaeli Swift of the University of Washington, a number of feeding locations were set up that attracted crows. Then those same crows were exposed to a masked human holding a dead crow in their hands. These humans were “scolded” by the crows (an alert noise that warned other living crows of a dangerous threat). Later, the masked individuals would return without a dead crow, but the behavior stayed the same. The crows scolded the person and avoided the spot. This suggests that the crows identified the mask with the death of one of their own and that any location the masked person visited could also be dangerous to them.
When a murder of crows holds a “funeral,” then, it seems likely that they are sending out warning cries to their still-living fellows and searching the area for threats. Still, when Swift repeated her experiment with dead pigeons, the crows didn’t seem particularly bothered. They cared only about the death of one of their own.
I find this whole thing a little cute and a more than a little spooky, for some reason.
Coffee inside this morning. Too hot outside.