John Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington, studies the relationship between humans, crows, and other corvids. How do these curious – and sharply intelligent creatures – thrive in our modern, human-dominated world?
We discuss the strategies these resilient creatures undertake within our chaotic and changeable cities. John helps us understand their flight patterns, roosting habits, social behavior, and even cultural trends exhibited amongst their own kind. He also gives us a behind-the-scenes account of the expeditions, experiments, and observations providing his team with a wealth of corvid behavior data.
As John Marzluff and I were coordinating the logistical details for this conversation, he mentioned that I should go to the University of Washington’s campus in Bothell during the Fall and Winter months – around sunset – to witness thousands of crows flying in, en masse, from all directions. So, off we went a couple of months ago, video camera in hand, and it was unlike anything I have ever seen.
Ten thousand or more crows flying in from across the region and assembling on the roofs of campus buildings. They seemed to be taking stock of the situation, agreeing that they had quorum, and then setting flight again to move 500 feet or so into the wetlands to settle for the night. That was an amazing experience.
They are attracted to shiny things and may use those as status enhancements – maybe even as gifts they provide in places where they get reliable rewards…this is under investigation
“A Murder of Crows” from Nature on PBS
“Why crows gather around their dead” from Kaeli Swift’s Corvid Research site
“Crows on Campus” from the University of Washington | Bothell site
John Marzluff’s books (Amazon):
- In The Company of Crows and Ravens
- Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans
- Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife