You’ve Heard of a Murder of Crows. How About a Crow Funeral? | Deep Look

Big news! You can now support Deep Look on Patreon. More after the show. A verdant park, an idyllic day. But something has gone terribly wrong. A passerby discovers it first — and lets
out a piercing call. Within seconds, everyone in earshot rushes
to the scene. It’s mayhem… or so it seems. Crows are intelligent, and super chatty They watch out for one another within tight-knit
groups. As adults it’s pretty rare for crows to
be killed. So when one dies the others notice. Are they just scared? Or is something deeper going on. Kaeli Swift, a Ph.D. candidate at the University
of Washington, set up an experiment to find out. She visits a park in Seattle for a few days,
leaving piles of peanuts for the crows. Then one day… Swift shows up looking very different. Wearing a mask and a wig, she carries a dead
taxidermied crow The first one that sees her sounds the alarm. The flock erupts in protest. The crows seem to wail and scold her and the
dead bird. Swift calls these crow funerals, though they’re
not the solemn memorials we put on for our dead. She thinks these noisy gatherings are opportunities
for crows to learn about the dangers that surround them, within the safety of the group. When an unmasked Swift returns to the park
the next week with more tasty peanuts, the crows are quiet and wary. They seem to have learned there’s something
hazardous about this place. Still, they eat the peanuts. But they take longer to approach and seem
to be much more suspicious. And when Swift returns wearing the mask? They lose it. Even without the dead crow, they still see
her as a threat. Compare that to these pigeons. They barely seem to register her holding their
deceased comrade. That’s how most creatures react. Just a few, like dolphins, elephants and crows
react strongly to seeing one of their own who’s died. Even weeks later the crows cause a ruckus
when they see the mask. Some never even saw her with the dead crow
but they still learned to associate her with danger. It’s called social learning — gaining new
information by observing and imitating others. We’re always looking to learn from one another
too… to avoid the mistakes that lead others to meet their untimely end. Hey there. We love making Deep Look, and if you love
it too, guess what – Deep Look is on Patreon! Patreon lets you support us each month, so
we can do more and better stuff for you. Like chats with producers and scientists,
and extra episodes in faraway lands. You’ll be invited to our members-only community,
where you can give us your story ideas and get Deep Look schwag. So click on the Patreon link here or in the
description to sign up. See you there!

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