Different chat day this week! – It’s a bird conspiracy: Those crows you hear cawing every time you go outside may be holding a grudge against you personally. It turns out they recognize individual human faces and hold a grudge for years against anyone who has treated them badly. But if they like you, they may touch you with a feather.

In New Scientist, Bob Holmes quotes researcher john Marzluff as saying, “Most of the time you walk right up to them and they don’t care at all,” but biologists suspected they recognized the faces of people who had banded them previously, in order to monitor them for scientific studies, so they experimented with wearing masks when catching the crows. Whenever a person wearing the same mask approached them later, they cawed (and “scolded”) him loudly, but they ignored people who were wearing a different mask.

The birds’ hatred of one of the masks lasted over 3 years, even though the crows had no more bad experiences with the people wearing it. The crows were much less agitated by the details of how people dressed.

Researcher Doug Levey isn’t surprised by the results. Holmes quotes him as saying, “We may think they are just bystanders minding their own business, but we ARE their business. It’s likely that they’re incredibly perceptive of the dog and cat components of their environment, as well.”

Many bird species have elegant, decorative feathers, which scientists assumed were used to attract the opposite sex (think peacock tails). But researcher Sampath Seneviratne thinks they may use them to feel their surroundings, the same way that cats use their whiskers.

In BBC News, Matt Walker quotes Seneviratne as saying, “This provides a hitherto missing explanation for the origin of ornamental feathers.”

The moral in this story? Those crows KNOW you’re there (they can sense your presence with their feathers) and what’s more, they RECOGNIZE you, so the next time you consider idly throwing a stone at that loud bird perching on a tree limb, THINK AGAIN.

Some people think the ideas our government comes up with are for the birds, but we don’t happen to agree: We see signs that disclosure may be on the way and here’s how we are helping people get ready for it: Once a week, from 7 to 8 Pacific, Anne and Whitley hold a subscriber chat, and you’re invited to join us! NOTE: This week our chat will be on THURSDAY, Feb. 25 instead of the usual Wednesday.

To learn more, click here and here.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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