American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos): To not forgive nor forget!

John Marzluff Shows How Crows Will Recognize You

If you think humans are the only creatures around that hold a grudge, think twice!

A study conducted by Marzluff et al. (2010) indicates that the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) has the uncanny ability to remember the faces of humans who have threatened or harmed them in the past – to a frightening degree. In particular, their admirable cognitive ability allows them to make use of past experience to acquaint certain faces with danger and enable them to distinguish dangerous faces from neutral ones.  This ability can be credited to an integrated neural system that allows the crow to discriminate, associate and remember visual stimuli. (Marzluff et al., 2012). This knowledge sheds some light on the curiosity of crows harassing only certain individuals.

One that has ever agitated a crow is unlikely to be seen being pestered by it in solitary. Rather, the Corvus brachyrhynchos has a greater tendency to pester humans in hordes. Largely, this can be attributed to their social characteristic – the ability to learn of potential threats from different sources (Cornell et al., 2011).

The Corvus brachyrhynchos can engage in social learning and has access to three different sources of information on potential threats. The first source is learning through first-hand experience. Apart from this, they also engage in ‘vertical’ learning through parents, or ‘horizontal learning’ from other crows.  Aggravating a single crow could very well incur the wrath of the whole flock once news of you starts to circulate!

To conclude, it would be prudent to refrain from provoking a crow the next time you see one on the streets. Unless you derive a sick sense of pleasure from engaging in a game of angry birds (no pun intended). Because chances are, these birds will remember you, and they would give you a nasty time!

Lin Zhilun (A0087234A)

Group 06


1)      Book Chapter

John M. Marzluff, Jeff Walls, Heather N. Cornell, John C. Withey, David P. Craig. (2010). Lasting recognition of threatening people by wild American crows. In: Animal Behaviour. College of the Environment, University of Washington, Seattle. Pp. 699-707.

2)      Journal article

Marzluff, J.M. (2012). Brain imaging reveals neuronal circuitry underlying the crow’s perception of human faces. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

3)      Journal article

Cornell, H. N. (2011). Social learning spreads knowledge about dangerous humans among American crows. The Royal Society.