Animal Intelligence: Wisdom of the Crow
Chappati is delicious and the food of choice at any time of the day. What do you do if a chappati is hard? Discard it. That is what most people usually do. Once in a restaurant I saw a person sitting opposite to my table having a left over chappati. I wondered why he didn't tell the waiter to pack it. "It's so hard, I can't imagine taking this home!"
Everyone must have heard of the story of a thirsty crow who found a narrow-necked pot with water at the bottom. She began to put pebbles in it to bring the water level up. Whether this is true or not, no one knows! But I had a taste of crow's intelligence the other day. We keep a discarded vessel with water on the pavement wall outside the kitchen to help birds quench their thirst on a sunny day. In Covid times it was indeed a blessing for many birds big and small.
Crows are regular visitors in our house hunting mostly for left over food. Most often they get a 'sumptuous' meal from the leftovers given to our three pet dogs which contains rice and chicken. One morning, a crow with a dry chappati in its beak zoomed down and perched on the edge of the vessel. It dropped the chappati in water, looked at it for some time and flew away. After some time the crow was back again. It started biting the chappati that had softened on getting wet.
Seeing this who wouldn't say crows are not intelligent and may believe the pebble story also to be true.
Crows are also innovative builders of nests on trees with twigs, stem and fibres. One day, my daughter Diyah found a nest that had fallen from a coconut tree in our neighbourhood. It did contain a few twigs but the structure was supported more by aluminium wires, discarded plastic and insulated cables. You would say it is contemporary nest architecture. May be our architects can learn a lot from these innovative birds.
In childhood, it was a past time to throw stones at crows perching on branches of trees. But 99% of the time, the crows would escape without being hit. I was told that it was because the unique position of the eyes on both sides of the faces which gives them a view of what is happening in front, sides and back.
Every parent or pre-school teacher has a favourite song they sing to kids- 'Kakke Kakke koodevide, Kootinakathoru Kunjundo......' Roughly translated it means- Child: Crow, Crow Where is your Nest?. Is there a chick in the nest? If the chick is not given food it will cry. Crow: Oh child will you give Neyyappam ( a snack). Child: No I won't give you neyyappam. And suddenly the crow comes and snatches away the neyyappam and the child says, Aiyyo Crow you cheated me! Don't ever try to trick a crow!
In preschools, It is also an innovative way of teaching kids language and songs with birds or animals familiar to them. One other favourite of children's songs is the cat and the rat. Ofcourse there are so many phrases related to crows in Malayalam language- 'kakka thollayiram' (Innumerable crows) to denote uncountable quantities and 'kakka kulichal kokkakumo'- if crow bathes will it become a crane?. A bit racist on the poor bird!
There is now talk of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is going to transform our lives, but we may as well delve deeper into Animal Intelligence which may be denoted 'AnI' for simple solutions to every day problems.