The pioneering animal behaviorist Konrad Lorenz wore a devil costume when he performed experiments with crows* so that they wouldn’t recognize him at other times.
Who’s the madman dressed in red,
Blackbirds dancing round his head;
Cloven toes point dartfully,
Mincing oh so artfully;
While he swishes pointy tail,
Drawing birdseed from a pail;
Happy birds and happy man,
Can devil care? Indeed he can!
It is well established that crows are highly intelligent. The Clark’s nutcracker crow, for example, caches up to 100,000 nuts in dozens of different locations at the end of spring, and can find them all again up to nine months later, even if they are covered with snow.
Researchers investigating the possibility that crows can recognize human faces devised an experiment using rubber masks. Students went out on a campus and in surrounding areas wearing either “caveman” or Dick Cheney masks. Those who wore one mask caught and banded crows and then let them go, but those who wore the uglier mask (Cheney 😈 ) didn’t bother crows–they just walked around scaring people.
In the following months, students went out again wearing the same masks. This time, nobody bothered the crows.
The crows consistently harassed anyone they saw wearing the caveman mask, scolding them with loud squawks and even mobbing them. This happened regardless of the size, sex or walking style of the person wearing the mask; even when the mask was partly hidden under a hat or worn upside down. The crows ignored the Cheney mask.
Nearly three years later, crows continued to attack students masked as cavemen, and even some unmasked freshmen: Average teen males, some of whom shamble about glowering from under lowered brows. (I may have made up that last part.)
(The lead investigator) claims that he has been scolded by far more birds than had been originally trapped, suggesting that crows not only recognized the mask, but had successfully somehow transmitted its description and perceived threat status to their offspring and other birds in the flock.
And the people say:
This facts in this post (other than the dancing devil doggerel, written by yours truly) are lifted shamelessly from the below two NYT pieces about honest-to-gosh plans, later abandoned, to find Osama bin Laden with the help of spy-crows:
Special Link To Crow Happiness