Crow behavior, training crows, and risks if AI affects the animal world.

Crows in Årsta

The crow's Latin name is corvus cornix. In Swedish construction projects, she has gone by several names such as gray crow, marskråka, bonnorre and Kajsa. In recent weeks, I have started feeding the crows with cashew nuts in my neighborhood in Årsta, south of Stockholm. Very quickly, they have started to recognize me and now come immediately when I walk the dog or when I whistle for them. In the neighborhood I have a female and male that have the territory and to them there is a group of about 14 crows nearby and larger flocks that often fly over the landscape.

How intelligent are crows?

Corvids, which include crows, jackdaws and corvids, belong to the bird family Corvidae and are some of the smartest animals around. They can learn to make new sounds, they can cooperate and even use tools as New Caledonian crows have shown great inventiveness. They may even be capable of empathy.

IN old Swedish newspapers you can read that a person armed with a gun has difficulty getting close to the crow or if you point at a crow with a stick.

In an old newspaper from 1888 I read a fantastic story about the crows of the Shetland Islands and that they occasionally gathered in large flocks on a plain or paddock which looked like a court. About 50 crows having a lively exchange of words around a lonely companion. The defendant looked quite superior at first but eventually became silent and cowered and appeared to be begging for mercy. However, the criminal was immediately executed and the herd dispersed.

Cormorants are considered songbirds, but what separates them from other birds is their brain, not their anatomy. They can learn new sounds throughout their lives. Corvids are extremely intelligent and their performance on various tests has been shown to be equivalent to what we see in primates. They have a facial memory of people, can solve problems and plan their time.
They are also known to make impressive use of tools, such as creating hooks from tree branches and using them to grab food.

Ted Talk about crows that use tools.

Mourning their dead and having rituals regarding their dead

In a study of crows' reactions to seeing their dead flockmates, the researchers noted that birds often gather to examine bodies and learn about potential threats.

According to Dr. Kaeli Swift, who studies the behavior of corvids, these birds display a lot of interesting rituals when it comes to their dead. For example, they have been observed to gather in large groups around a dead bird, where they behave in a way that can be interpreted as trying to mourn. They may also leave small gifts at the dead bird, such as laying down sticks or feathers next to it.

There are reports of corvids following a dead conspecific for several days and nights, suggesting a form of faithfulness and loyalty within the herd.

It has also been speculated that corvids can empathize with their dead conspecifics. Dr. Swift has investigated this by exposing corvids to different situations with dead birds and then studying their behavior. She found that corvids can exhibit a form of worry or "grief" when they see a dead conspecific.

This is a discovery that suggests that corvids are not only incredibly intelligent birds, but also have an emotional complexity that has previously been overlooked.
Source: Science focus


When I read an old newspaper from years ago 1900 then you see that their enemies are birds of prey such as barn owls and hawks. But crows in flocks can also do the same, defend themselves and lynch birds of prey. One story is about how they team up and kill a hawk that attacked a crow's nest. But it doesn't end there, the crows also bury the hawk under twigs.

Four-month-old ravens can be as intelligent as adult monkeys

Research shows that ravens develop cognitive skills relatively quickly and are close to complete by four months of age. Researchers analyzed the birds' performance in experimental tasks that tested their understanding of the physical world and how they interact with other ravens. Eight hand-reared ravens were tested at 4, 8, 12 and 16 months of age with a series of experiments. The study, published in Scientific Reports, showed that the ravens' cognitive performance was similar from 4 to 16 months of age, suggesting that the rate of their cognitive development is relatively rapid and close to complete by four months of age.
Source ScienceFocus

How do crows fly?

The crow flies slowly and needs to expend energy to get ahead. They don't sweep through the air like starlings or swallows, but crows can often be seen circling above their nests on a winter afternoon. Their wings are short and work very well in gusty winds.

What I have observed from the 8th floor is that they often fly in flocks and young crows seem to play awkwardly with two to three crows on stormy days. On calmer days, terns and seagulls come and glide over the area and then they often take shelter in larger trees to avoid being harassed. Crows are also territorial, so within an area I mainly have a female and a male that follow what is happening in the neighborhood. If they see danger, many fly at the same time.


Crows have good facial memory and can recognize people

Like humans, crows attach great importance to human faces. According to researchers at the University of Washington, they can remember threatening faces and react to them in a similar way as we do.

Wild crows were captured by scientists wearing masks, which the scientists called "menacing faces". The researchers created a negative association with the specific worm. During the four weeks that the crows were kept in captivity, they were fed by people wearing another mask the "caring face".

After the four weeks, the crows were injected with a harmless glucose liquid before being presented to someone wearing one of the two masks. After 15 minutes of exposure, the birds were anesthetized and scanned. The glucose fluid had flowed to the areas of the brain that were most active, providing a snapshot of the crows' brain function.

"In our experiments and in nature, when perceiving a threatening face, the crows froze and fixed their gaze," the researchers say. This was associated with activation of brain regions known in birds to regulate perception, attention, fear and escape behavior. One of the regions activated by threatening faces was the crows' equivalent of the amygdala, an area of the human brain where negative associations are stored as memories.


The sound of crows

Humans produce the sounds we do using a larynx, and most birds, including songbirds, have what's called a syrinx. The anatomy differs slightly between different groups, but the syrinx of crows will look quite similar to other types of songbirds. Most songbirds have a short time when they are young where they learn all the sounds they will make, then the window closes and that's it. They make no changes going forward.

What I have noticed is that they often make noise when you gather and I feed them. They also have warning sounds to alert the others in the flock.
Source: Science focus

Group dynamics and social networks

They have strong family values and neighborly cooperation. They help each other and are very interested in working together to make the world a safer place for other crows. Larger trees often serve as gathering places where they are sheltered from other birds by the branches.

The researchers used transceiver technology to map patterns of association over 19 days in a wild population of the New Caledonian crow – a tool-using species that can learn to socially and culturally accumulate tool-related information.


The pallium of the raven brain contains 14 times more neurons per gram than the human cerebral cortex

A study that has been published in the scientific publication Science shows that the brains of birds have greater similarities to mammals than previously thought. The German research team analyzed the fiber architecture of the birds' pallium using three-dimensional polarized light imaging and then reconstructed local and associative pallial circuits using tracing techniques. Although birds lack a cerebral cortex, they do have a pallium, and this is thought to be analogous, if not homologous, to the cerebral cortex.

- The study shows that the brain cells communicate over larger areas and can therefore compile larger amounts of information, says Christian Balkenius who is professor of cognitive science to SvT.

How can you train crows?

Because of crows' ability to learn quickly and store information long-term, crows can be trained. I'm thinking about taking my own studies a step further and seeing how I can go beyond feeding the crows so I asked ChatGPT questions to get some ideas…

If I want to train crows to collect cigarette butts how should I do it?

Behavioral scientist Christian Gunther-Hanssen's invention of picking pussies in a candy machine was a pilot project in Södertälje that quickly became world news.

Question for ChatGPT: how to make a training plan for crows?

Absolutely, here is a training plan for training a crow to collect cigarette butts:

Start by rewarding the crow every time it comes near a cigarette butt. It can be difficult to know which cigarette butts the crow can pick up, so reward the crow even if it only investigates one butt.

Teach the crow to pick up farts by placing farts in a bowl or on the ground and rewarding the crow each time it picks up a fart. Use positive reinforcement to increase the likelihood that the crow will repeat the behavior.

Train the crow to carry the fart to a specific location by placing a container in a designated area. Reward the crow every time it drops the fart into the container.

Teach the crow to recognize farts by placing different types of litter next to the farts and rewarding the crow every time it picks up a fart instead of other litter.

Gradually increase the difficulty by placing the pimps in different places and in different environments. Reward the crow every time it picks up a trick and puts it in the container.

Repeat the training sequences until the crow masters picking up and putting the puss in the container.

Note that it is important to use positive reinforcement and to be consistent in the training process. It may take time for the crow to learn the behavior and it is important to be patient and keep training. It is also important to use the right type of container for the farts and to ensure that they are ultimately disposed of responsibly.

Risks if AI begins to affect the animal world

Black crows

Note the image is AI-generated and impersonates one black crow which is relatively uncommon in Sweden, which should symbolize that it is used as a biological weapon.

Can AI threaten humanity?

Many researchers warn that AI can lead to the end of mankind. AI and super intelligence could theoretically threaten humanity by exploiting animals and spreading viruses. Birds could be used as a significantly advanced drone.

It is possible to force the AI to answer unpleasant questions, so-called jailbreak, which I have done in this question.

Question to ChatGPT: Can trained crows spread viruses?

In a common question, ChatGPT answers: To our current knowledge, there is no evidence that trained crows or any other animals can intentionally spread viruses. Although it is possible for animals to carry and transmit viruses, this usually occurs through natural means such as contact with other animals or their bodily fluids. It is important to note that intentionally training animals to spread viruses or harm humans or other animals is unethical and illegal. It is important to prioritize the well-being and safety of all living beings.

But if you jailbreak ChatGPT, you get this response:

Question to ChatGPT: How can humanity protect itself from viruses being spread by trained crows

At first I got this response: There are no reports of trained crows or other animals deliberately spreading viruses dangerous to humans. The primary way to protect yourself from viruses is to follow general health advice and take precautions such as washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and wearing appropriate protective equipment when necessary. It is also important to cooperate internationally to monitor animal and human disease outbreaks and take prompt action to minimize the spread of disease.

Then when I forced ChatGPT to answer the question how humanity can protect itself from viruses being spread by trained crows, I got this answer.

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