What are crows saying when their loud cawing fills a dark winter's evening [phys.org]? 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 [theatlantic.com]. In recent years scientists have come to study them as a way to better understand human intelligence and how it evolves in nature.