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posted by mrpg on Wednesday December 06, @12:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the comunity dept.

What are crows saying when their loud cawing fills a dark winter's evening? Despite the inescapable ruckus, nobody knows for sure. Birds congregate daily before and after sleep, and they make some noise, but what might be happening in those brains is a mystery.

Curious about these raucous exchanges, researchers at the University of Washington Bothell are listening in. They are placing equipment on the roof of their building—a meeting place for some of the thousands of crows that sleep in nearby campus trees—and using a sort of computerized eavesdropping to study the relationship between calls and the birds' behavior.

"With audio alone, our team is able to localize and record the birds remotely, and in dim light that makes this situation less suitable for video tracking," said Shima Abadi, an assistant professor at UW Bothell's School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. "It's still a challenging task, but we can use the audio signals to look for patterns and learn more about what the birds may be communicating."

Crows are very intelligent creatures and among the few that can use tools. In recent years scientists have come to study them as a way to better understand human intelligence and how it evolves in nature.


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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by LoRdTAW on Wednesday December 06, @12:43PM (5 children)

    by LoRdTAW (3755) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @12:43PM (#606111) Journal

    It's a sad time when not even the animals are free from warrantless wiretaps and eavesdropping.

    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday December 06, @04:06PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday December 06, @04:06PM (#606172)

      Except for the part where this has nothing to do with wiretapping. It's just clickbait.

      The team of mostly undergraduate students has been perfecting its audio recording technique. They placed four audio recorders in a 10-foot square in a parking lot, and then placed a speaker playing a crow call in one of the quadrants. The recorders have precise time stamps to calculate when the sound waves arrive, and then software compares the times to pinpoint where the sound was generated.

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 2) by The Archon V2.0 on Wednesday December 06, @04:10PM

      by The Archon V2.0 (3887) on Wednesday December 06, @04:10PM (#606175)

      If they've got nothing to hide they've got nothing to fear.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by crb3 on Wednesday December 06, @04:43PM (1 child)

      by crb3 (5919) on Wednesday December 06, @04:43PM (#606197)

      Only when there's probable caws.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @04:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @04:43PM (#606198)

      I just know they're talking about me.

  • (Score: 2) by martyb on Wednesday December 06, @02:09PM (1 child)

    by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @02:09PM (#606127) Journal

    I remember reading a story something well over 40 years ago that explained several crow calls.

    For example, one that I remember was that 5 sharp caws (Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw!) was an alarm that there was danger around.

    There were quite a few more, but it was so long ago I don't recall them, now. :(

    --
    Wit is intellect, dancing.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @02:41PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @02:41PM (#606138)

      Five sharp caws means "There is an ornithologist nearby, let us confuse him and his readers with five sharp caws" :)

      Crows are amazing, I think I recall reading something about crow calls too. Here is a random link to avoid being off-topic

      http://www.nature-mentor.com/crow-language.html [nature-mentor.com]

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by donkeyhotay on Wednesday December 06, @04:34PM (1 child)

    by donkeyhotay (2540) on Wednesday December 06, @04:34PM (#606190)

    ...Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
    Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
            For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
            Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
    Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
                            With such name as "Nevermore..."

  • (Score: 1) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday December 06, @05:53PM

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Wednesday December 06, @05:53PM (#606236)

    A large (and loud) community of birds gathers in the trees outside the Austin Tx airport parking garage in the evenings. Their noise patterns don't feel random under a few hours observation. Calls seem to move from tree to tree in a pattern. I wish I lived there so I could observe it further.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by darnkitten on Wednesday December 06, @08:04PM (2 children)

    by darnkitten (1912) on Wednesday December 06, @08:04PM (#606351)

    Why, murder, [wikipedia.org] of course.

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @09:20PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @09:20PM (#606414)

      I came back from the store, saw two crows on a neighbor's roof. When I got home, I told my wife I'd seen an attempted murder.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07, @11:18AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07, @11:18AM (#606760)

        I hear the criminal police spends a lot of time investigating murder. I wonder what's their interest in crows.

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