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See Inside April 2007

Just How Smart Are Ravens?

Recent experiments show that these birds use logic to solve problems and that some of their abilities approach or even surpass those of the great apes

A trapper in the north woods observes a common raven (Corvus corax) roll over on its back with its feet in the air next to a beaver carcass on the snow. A biologist laboriously climbs a cliff to band raven nestlings, and the birds' parents rain down loose rocks from above. A lone raven clamors loudly near a remote cabin, alerting a man next to it to look up and see a hidden cougar that is about to spring on him.

Each of these three people presumed to know what the ravens were up to. The trapper thought the raven was playing possum, pretending it had been poisoned to keep other ravens away so it could have the beaver carcass to itself. The biologist thought the raven pair was deliberately trying to hit him with rocks so he would go away. The man at the remote cabin thought the raven had alerted him to save his life.

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