Tuesday, March 17, 2015


By Luting Yao
28 Feb 2015

Crows are social animals who like to live with a large number of groups. Whenever you go in Western Washington, especially at night, you can easily see a group of crows flying over your head. The most impressive thing in my mind was the first day I went to the University of Washington Bothell. I was so surprised that I saw several crows walking on the road eating something. When the sky turned dark, I heard loudly voices of crows from far away. At first, I was so scared because I used to be afraid of crows.
I watched a lot of movies about crows, which show that crows are the evil symbols and something bad. However, after taking a class ”All things…crow”, I changed my mind and had some other new thoughts about crows. During that time, I tried to do a lot of readings and found the sources about crows. Also, I always went to UWB to find some time to observe them. There is something very interesting and weird, which arouses my attention. I get my question now: Why do crows roost on the UWB campus? Why do they always stay together with their groups? There are many reliable and valid evidences that I found on University of Washington Bothell official website. In “Roost Of Crows On UW Bothell Campus”, Marzluff said: “the UW Bothell campus is an ideal environment for crows to roost.” One day at around 4:30pm, I went to the school’s parking lot and I saw thousands of crows flying toward campus. Finally, they landed on the trees beside or on the roof of campus. I made some guesses about why they come here and why they choose to land on the roost of campus and why they tend to stay together with a big group.
Firstly, in my opinion, they fly towards the campus because they had already considered the roofs of campus are enough space for them to land and get together. On one hand, they might come from a far place; thus, they need to have a rest on the roof. On the other hand, it is also a good opportunity to wait for some other group members to aggregate.

Secondly, the places for them to sleep are near from UWB. Thus, they can land on the roof for a while and then they just need to spend a little bit time to arrive at sleeping places. Thirdly, they may be protecting themselves and their families from predators. Some animals like to go out to find foods to eat at night, especially owls, who are crows’ biggest predators in the world. According to Dr. Kevin J. McGowan, “Crows are most afraid of large owls, and sleeping with a bunch of other crows could afford some protection for an individual crow.” Thus, In order to be safe, they like to stay together and if something dangerous happens, they can easily find and tell each other to run because they have more eyes to look at when they are together.
Besides of the aspects above, I think that crows like to land on the UWB’s roofs because they can recognize that the people there are all students. I read about several articles before, they talked many things about crows can remember people’s faces and recognize the dangerous things. Thus, I speculate that crows have already known that students are not hunters, who will not hurt them. Hence, they are safer than landing on other places such as cities and etc. Marzluff points out his opinion that crows like to stay with a big number group having some other purposes. They can have more chances to search for mates and then they might find a new place to eat and they will follow groups next day.
Crows are smart, funny and friendly. They don't have a special structure in their big group. They just get together, play together and sleep together for many interesting reasons. As for me, I do enjoy doing researches and my feelings about crows from scared to confuse to now enjoying them. J

I am from beautiful Xinjiang, China. I am studying the business major in the University of Washington Bothell. After graduation, I plan to find a job that related to my major in the United States in order to acquire more experiences. Then, I decided to pursue my Master’s degree focusing on accounting. In my spare time, I like dancing to the music and listening to the pop music. I am enjoying talking with people and making friends. I would like to thank my parents for their support. They encourage me to go aboard to get better education in the United States and enlarge my eyes. I cherish this opportunity and I will try my best to be an excellent person to contribute to the society.

Works Cited:

Shawn, Cross. 2012. A Murderous Crow. Deviant Art, [internet]. [cited 25 Feb
2015]. Available from: http://shawncoss.deviantart.com/art/A-Murderous-Crow-316753586
Soya, Angela. 2013. Owl, Hawk And Crow Spirit Animals. Worldpress. [internet]. [cited 2 March, 2015]. Available from: http://thriveonnews.com/2013/03/23/owl-hawk-crow-spirit-animals/

Trujillo, Joshua. 2013. Crows converge on UW, Bothell campus. Seattlepi.com. [internet]. [cited 2 March, 2015]. Available from: http://blog.seattlepi.com/thebigblog/2013/03/01/crows-converge-at-uw-campus/#10243101=0


by Sean Offeman
3 March 2015

         Capable of using tools to obtain their food, remembering the faces of humans and predators, and communicating to others around them, crows are widely believed to be the most intelligent birds on the planet. Besides this intelligence, crows have gained an important reputation for being able to survive in many ecologically diverse habitats such as fields, woodlands, forests, farming sites, towns, neighborhoods and cities around the world. This and the crows ability to travel far distances, as well as their omnivorously diverse diet, has helped crows to maintain stable and growing populations, even as human interference and adversity continues to affect them time and time again.

 Current ecological research has shown that crow populations have slightly increased from 1966 to 2010 and that the global breeding population is at 27 million. A fairly recent, and very deadly virus called the West Nile Virus, has been responsible for many recent crow deaths and has accounted for killing 45% of American Crows since 1999. Virtually all crows who come in contact with this virus die within the first week, with very few survivors. Even with these dangerously high numbers of crow fatalities, the International Union for Conservation of Nature still lists them as a species of least concern. With this growing virus epidemic however, it should be of major importance to focus on protecting these crows before their populations begin to decline and the virus is too rapidly spreading to stop.

 Although large crow roosts and close contact with one another can be dangerous with the spread of the West Nile Virus, it is also fundamental in crows success and natural social behavior in order to benefit and enhance their daily lives. These crows usually spend this time together while roosting in very large murders (crow flocks), which can range from hundreds to thousands and even sometimes to the hundreds of thousands during the Winter months. Crows take this time to socialize, to forage for new types of food, and to drive off predators (known as mobbing). When they're not roosting, crows often stay together in year-round family groups, which consists of the breeding pair and their offspring from the past two years. Everyone in these families participate and cooperate in raising the younger crows.

         Probably the most important phase in the crows lifetime is reproduction. In order for these crows to reproduce, they must build nests in order to accommodate the needs of their young. Both members of the breeding pair build the nest, which is made largely by medium-sized twigs with an inner cup lined with pine-needles, weeds, soft bark, or animal hair. Nest sizes are typically 6 - 19 inches across, with an inner cup about 6 -14 inches wide and 4 -15 inches deep. Crows will usually build their nests in trees, however there are many occasions where crows build their nests in neighborhoods, towns and cities on human made structures such as buildings, power lines and lamp posts. To build such nests on these structures, crows use man-made objects to construct these complex designs.

         Something which has fascinated and proven to humans how intelligent crows truly are is how they are able to recognize human faces from a birds eye view and from very far distances away, and more importantly, communicate these human faces to other crows. Even more intriguing, these adult crows will later pass this human facial recognition on to their offspring, so that they also know to avoid these threats. In addition to knowing these threats, crows also use different forms of vocalization for different threats.

         Over time, crows have become very ecologically diverse throughout North America and the rest of the world. This diversity has allowed them to continue traveling all around North America, even as human civilization and industry expands rapidly. Some major advances to crow livelihood came from American agriculture during the 1800s and 1900s. Corn and other grains became a common food choice amongst most crows and this large abundance of food helped to grow crow populations significantly.

         With such a diverse diet, methods to eating hard to crack foods must be found. Nuts and small turtles for example, cannot be eaten in their shells, so many crows have adapted to dropping these foods from high altitudes and then fetching them as they hit the ground and break. Other, much more modern methods discovered by crows, involve placing these shelled foods in front of cars on streets and waiting for the cars to smash them, to which the crow takes great delight in eating afterwards. These new methods of eating uncommon foods are essentially important in understanding crow intelligence and how they will continue to find new solutions to every problem they encounter. 

         Throughout this ecological research of crows, I have learned and come to understand many important and fascinating things about crows who live in many different ecological habitats and deal with many different ecological factors all the time. It is important that I can inform others about these crows and also point out their true importance in the natural world.

About Myself

         I am from Redmond, Washington and am currently attending the University of Washington in Bothell. As a first year student, I am currently working towards getting my credits and the necessary prerequisite courses in order to attend the School of Business here are UWB and to eventually get a degree in Business. I am enjoying my first year here so far and look forward to continuing my education at UWB.
Photo credits: all by S. Offeman

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, American Crow [Internet]. [Cited March 5, 2015]. Available from: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_crow/lifehistory
KCTS 9, Nature, A Murder of Crows, Crow Facts [Internet]. c February 21, 2013. [Cited March 5, 2015]. Available from: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/a-murder-of-crows-crow-facts/5965/
Scientific American, Crows Show Off Their Social Skills [Internet]. c August 8, 2013. [Cited March 5, 2015]. Available from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/crows-show-off-social-skills/

Marzluff M John. 2007.  In the Company of Crows and Ravens. [Cited March 5, 2015]. Yale University Press.


By Ellen Lee
3 March 2015

Sioux Crow Myth & Science
 Myths are stories that are  written to explain  how the world works or to teach morals. Myths are usually considered fiction. Cultures associated with a myth or myths do not necessarily view the myths as fiction. They may view them as truth.  But many people believe that myths can be explained by science. One particular myth that I found very interesting is a Sioux tribe myth called “The Story of the Pet Crow”.  I found it in a bookSioux Myths and Legends, by Marie L. McLaughlin. The myth talks about how a huge group of crows took food from a Sioux tribe and so the tribe goes to war with the crows. After killing many of the crows the chief of the tribe took a very young crow into the tribe and raised it like family. The crow learned the Sioux tribe’s language and many other tribe languages. The crow became the Sioux tribe’s spy and one day the crow heard some medicine men talk about the Sioux Chief’s predetermined death. The crow sadly told the Sioux tribe of the Sioux Chief’s fate. Everyone in the tribe prepared for the Sioux Chief’s coming death with a funeral. Once the Sioux chief died the crow cried at the death place, left, and never came back. No other crow ever came back to the Sioux tribe again (McLaughlin 2008). 
This myth’s moral seems to be saying that your enemies are not that different from yourself and so they are able to become friends with you. But there was no explanation for why the crows never went back to the Sioux tribe. So I am really curious as to why the crows never came back. It could be that the crow that was the Sioux tribe’s member was so sad that it didn’t want to ever return to the Sioux Chief’s death place again. But another possibility could be that in honor of the Sioux Chief that same crow decided to tell other crows to avoid the Sioux tribe so that the crows would never take food from the tribe again. 
            The myth’s portrayal of the  Sioux tribe crow’s actions at the funeral reminded me of real life crow reactions to dead crows where crows silently gather around a dead crow and then fly away. I wondered why crows do this and so I found an online article that has some ideas as to what the purpose of crow funerals could be. John Marzluff is an avian researcher at the University of Washington. He said that learning about danger seems to be one of the most important functions of crow funerals (Werner 2014). He also said,” But it doesn’t mean there aren’t other things going on” (Werner 2014). “You know at the same time that you’re learning about danger, you might be feeling bad or afraid about it” (Werner 2014).  The article also said that John Marzluff captures wild crows and uses PET scans to see what parts of the crow brain light up when they’re exposed to a dead crow and other stimuli. If, for example, the amygdala—the part of the brain linked to emotions—is active when the caged birds see a dead crow, it could suggest the birds are feeling strong emotions (Werner 2014). But early results indicate that the crows are using a different part of their brain, the area associated with long-term memory (Werner 2014). I think it makes sense for crows to use information from dead crows to increase their chances of survival. But if crows were able to feel sorry for dead crows I would not be surprised. Maybe sympathy can help them remember the death of a crow better so that they have a higher chance of avoiding danger. In the myth the crow never returned to the death place but I was not sure if that was true for crows in real life.  When I asked my professor who teaches a class about crows she said that crows do come back to the death place sometimes.
            How humans act in funerals is similar to the myth’s portrayal of how  a certain crow mourned and similar to real life observations of how crows react to dead crows. But whether or not crows feel sad at crow funerals and what meaning crow funerals hold for crows is yet to be completely determined.

Thursday, March 13, 2014



 It's no shock to us by now that, Ravens have proven to be one of the most riveting and unpredictable species of birds, demonstrating their abilities. Not only have there been studies done by researchers observing and learning the capabilities of the Ravens, but in actuality Raven's have been observed by many religions. Stories, myths, traditions and beliefs have been made about Ravens and followed by many different kinds of religions. In my creative piece, I have focused on drawing one of the Native American's story and I have also searched the roles of Raven's in other religions and folklore. There are three major regions that have made the most influences of Ravens in their religions, and those nations are North America, Europe, and Native Americans.

Bill Reid illustration (image source: http://theravenscall.ca/en/who)
Ravens are conceivably, the most common bird symbol used in the mythologies and religions of ancient cultures. As most of us know and have heard of, Ravens are symbolized as death and misfortune. However, in North European culture and religions, Ravens are also believed to appear in the form of goddesses, gathering over the battlefields, feeding on the flesh of the fallen warriors. Whereas in Great Britain, spotting a Raven before proceeding into a battle gave a sign of suspicion, and meant that the army would be defeated. (Sax 2009). In North America I have learned that the Ravens are actually the creators of the world. I also learned that Raven was given the role of Noah from the biblical story of Great Flood, and how the Raven took animals on to the big raft in order to save all the animals. Following that story I also learned that because the Raven did so much for the humans, and in return the Raven was refused  by humans to marry a woman he loved, so as a revenge the myth states that the Raven created mosquitos to torment humans forever (Tucker 2014). I also found a very engaging story called “Raven steals the light”. Although I thought the story was only based on the Athabascan Tribe, however, as I researched more about the story I found out that many of the Native tribes, portrayed the Raven as a trickster, and so the idea of the story is the same, but there are certain variations with different tribes. The moral of the story was that there was no light, because the Chief of the tribe kept it in a box, and the people lived in total darkness, and the Raven did not like that. So the raven tricks Chief’s daughter, enters her body, and she gives birth to the Raven as an infant. The Raven then grew in the house as an infant and asked the Chief for the box with the light, and as soon as he got the box, the Raven changed into his bird shape, and carried the box to the sky, and that's how the Raven stole the light. (Reid 1996).

After conveying the Raven's role in religion in North America, the European religious traditions and beliefs, and with the native tribal myths, the themes of the Raven reoccurs of death, wisdom, and trickery. Which is why I believe that the Raven has an important role in many religions. My focus on the creative piece, is drawing the story of “The Raven steals the light”, while explaining it in the paper how Raven played an important role in traditional stories and in religions. For my creative piece I have been inspired by the image produced and drawn by Bill Reid from the book “The Raven Steals the Light”  which is shown above.


Reid, Bill, and Robert Bringhurst 1996. The Raven Steals the Light: Native American Tales. Boston: Shambhala. 

Sax, Boria. 2009.  "The Tower Ravens as Mascots of Britain in World War II."Tiere Im Krieg. By Ferdinand Scöningh. Zurich: n.p., 2009. 199-213.

Tucker, Suzetta.  2014. "ChristStory Raven, Crow, Blackbird Page."ChristStory Christian Bestiary. 1998. Web source.