Crows – More Than a “Caw”

Crows – More Than a “Caw”

Music; Ambiance: Northwestern Crow

JM: You might not think of a crow “cawing” as a kind of song, but scientists do. The number of songs that crows produce and the way they learn their vocabulary of sounds may surprise you. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Candace Savage is the author of “Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Avian World.”

CS: “Crows make a great variety of different sounds. We just think “caw, caw, caw,” but no! They make little cooing sounds and rattling sounds and barking sounds and trilling sounds! They’re also great imitators. They are, strictly speaking, songbirds. And all songbirds learn sound through at least a period in their life, as young birds. And crows and ravens really do take imitative abilities to quite a high order. They are capable of imitating human speech. But they’re more likely to learn sounds from their environment or from one another. And the blending of their vocabularies seems to be very important in their social relationships with one another.”

JM: Crows don’t just sing in crowds, though. Some seem to do it from sheer solitary pleasure.

CS: “Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you may be walking along and you’ll hear from a tree just over your head, a very soft, fluid sequence of “coo, coo, caw, caw.” You’ll look up and you’ll see a bird, a crow all by itself in the tree, just talking away quietly to itself.”

JM: We’ll hear more about crows in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Crows - More Than a "Caw"

"Caw caw" says the crow. Well, yes, but a lot more too!
Air Date:02/01/2013
Scientist:
Transcript:

Crows - More Than a "Caw"

Music; Ambiance: Northwestern Crow

JM: You might not think of a crow "cawing" as a kind of song, but scientists do. The number of songs that crows produce and the way they learn their vocabulary of sounds may surprise you. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Candace Savage is the author of "Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Avian World."

CS: "Crows make a great variety of different sounds. We just think "caw, caw, caw," but no! They make little cooing sounds and rattling sounds and barking sounds and trilling sounds! They're also great imitators. They are, strictly speaking, songbirds. And all songbirds learn sound through at least a period in their life, as young birds. And crows and ravens really do take imitative abilities to quite a high order. They are capable of imitating human speech. But they're more likely to learn sounds from their environment or from one another. And the blending of their vocabularies seems to be very important in their social relationships with one another."

JM: Crows don't just sing in crowds, though. Some seem to do it from sheer solitary pleasure.

CS: "Sometimes, if you're very lucky, you may be walking along and you'll hear from a tree just over your head, a very soft, fluid sequence of "coo, coo, caw, caw." You'll look up and you'll see a bird, a crow all by itself in the tree, just talking away quietly to itself."

JM: We'll hear more about crows in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.