Ravens Are Terrifyingly Smart and Form Complicated Raven Governments

Anyone who's ever gotten flapped in the face after walking too close to a crow's girlfriend (seriously, dude, CHILL) knows that birds—especially crows and ravens—are freaky. Those dudes are hella fucking smart.

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They can orchestrate teamwork and solve problems and do puzzles and have opinions and plot revenge and REMEMBER YOUR FACE. That's why it's important to keep tabs on what your area's bird geniuses are up to. So you don't wake up one morning with a beak through your eye.

The latest: Ravens keep track of other ravens' social rank, even among groups to which they don't belong. They can then use that knowledge to predict which ravens will support which other ravens, position themselves optimally within social groups, and then WORK TOGETHER TO COME UP WITH THE PERFECT CRIME PROBABLY. In other words, ravens are shrewd political strategists.

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Via IFLScience:

In certain social organizations and dominance hierarchies, the key to survival is social intelligence and an understanding of community dynamics. Not only do you need to know who's nice and who's not to get by on a daily basis, but for every political maneuver, it's important to know who will support whom.

...They found that ravens paid especial attention and seemed stressed — displaying behaviors like head turns and body shakes — when they hear playbacks that simulate a rank reversal in their group. They just didn't expect a low-ranking bird to show off to a higher-ranking one — this violates their rank relations. They were fine when the dominance structure in the playback reflects their hierarchy accurately.

The ravens also responded to simulated rank reversals in neighboring groups, suggesting that they've figured out who's boss among unknown birds just by watching and listening to them (since there was no physical contact between groups). It's the first evidence of animals tracking rank relations of individuals that don't belong to their own group — a useful skill for a bird switching foraging units.

IDEA: A WEST WING SPIN-OFF BUT WITH RAVENS.

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DISCUSSION

gnomimalone
Gnomi Malone

I fucking love ravens. Everyone at my old workplace hated them because they kept figuring out how to unlatch and open our dumpsters to steal food and we had to start using chains and locks, so the ravens worked out a plan to be waiting when people brought out bags of trash and would snatch stuff mid-air as it was being tossed into the dumpster, before it was closed and locked.

As a supporter of ravens, I spent many a break time trying to teach them snippets of songs and words to mimic. They got the cartoony sad "wah wahhhh" noise down pat and would employ it masterfully. Trip on your way to the dumpster? Bird chorus of "Wah wahhhhhh"s.