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The Hawaiian Crow – one smart bird

hawaiian crow

The Hawaiian crow or ‘alalā is a medium-sized crow, 18 to 20 inches in length. The sexes are similar in color and size. The ‘alalā is a duller black than its North American cousins, with brown-tinged wings, and the throat feathers are stiff with hairlike webs and grayish shafts. The bill and legs are black.

The Zoological Society of San Diego operates captive propagation facilities at the Maui Bird Conservation Center on Maui and at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center on the Big Island at Volcano.

Recent research by Dr. Christian Rutz from St Andrews University has revealed that simple tool use by Hawaiian Crows was a snap.

The crows were provided with logs that had holes and crevices that were baited with food that was just out of a bill’s reach. Small sticks were also available in the area.

“They were able to pick up sticks from the aviary,” said Dr Rutz, “and of all the birds we tested, 93% used [the sticks as] tools. This suggests this is a species-wide skill.

“They were incredibly dextrous in the way that they handled the sticks, shortened them when they were too long, and discarded them if they were not happy with them.”

More on the research on the BBC web site.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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