IMG_6252My name is Loma Pendergraft, and I’m a graduate student in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. I am currently studying the cognitive abilities of American crows, particularly how they interact within their social environment.

I’ve long been fascinated by the intelligence of crows and other members of their taxonomic family (a group known as “Corvids”); it never ceases to amaze me when I hear stories that demonstrate just how smart they are. Have you heard about Betty, the New Caledonian crow that created a tool to retrieve some out-of-reach food? Did you know that European magpies can recognize themselves in the mirror? Were you surprised to find out that American crows can identify and remember human faces? These stories and others like them testify to the astonishing brain power that these birds possess.

Due to their advanced intelligence, crows are able to interact and communicate with one another to a surprising degree. For my Master’s, I studied the different vocalizations that American crows give around food. For my PhD, I am studying their problem solving capabilities and the different regions of their brain that are most active when they experience different situations.



11 Responses to Home

  1. Hi Loma, I enjoyed hearing about your crow project today at the Montlake Fill. I, too, find crows fascinating. I was amazed the day I saw a crow touch the water of the lake and fly away with a small fish.
    Best of luck in your work.
    Marilyn Roderick


  2. Tom Reaume says:

    Hi Loma, Always great to find someone studying crows. Thanks for the donation. Their vocabulary is still a mystery to us. How crows describe their world among themselves and when interacting with us in the urban habitat sounds like a wonderful project. Keep an ear out for surprises. The day is full of possibilities. Tom Reaume


  3. luanwe says:

    I have watched crows for years and have grown to love and admire them. One of the few birds that have a chance of surviving the Anthropocene.


  4. Roxanna says:

    wish wecould hear your presentation in Tulsa sounds interesting what you are doing. we have a small group of crows that come to our yard, front porch, trees, neighborhood, I can’t remember when we first noticed them but we think they chased the pigeons that were in our trees for the past year away, which is ok with us. They are some beauties. we live in OKC.


  5. Dominic García-hall says:

    Kaeli Swift gave me your info – wondered what your u thought about this? Today I watched an AMCR vocalising from its nest; when approached by 2 FICR it changed its call note to one that was much more akin to FICR call. Is this a kind of interspecific communication?? Pretty cool to see. Thanks


    • How interesting! While several species are capable of interspecific communication, they almost always involve recognizing each other’s alarm calls. I’ve attracted FICR to an area by playing AMCR mobbing calls, but your anecdote doesn’t mention danger. I have a couple ideas on what might be going on, but I’d like to get a bit more information about this phenomenon before I formulate any hypotheses: Where did this happen (what state)? When did this happen (what month)? How could you tell the 2 approaching crows were FICR and not smaller AMCR? What happened after the nesting crow gave those calls?


  6. Stella says:

    Hello Loma,
    I found your contact info in an article of Kaeli’s. It appears you are the “Go-to Crow Communication Guy”
    I have shared some Crow stories and questions with Kaeli since rescuing a nestling last May. Let me put your mind at ease, Ruckus is back with his parents. He comes “home” every day, sometimes several times throughout the day. His parents call me every morning, like a patron summoning a waiter, lol. Of course, I oblige.
    I have heard a number of different vocalizations, and even sent a video to Kaeli showing an odd behavior of Ruckus’. She could not identify it. Perhaps I could forward it to you?
    Looking forward to reading more of your work about yet another fascinating talent of our Corvid friends.
    Thank you


    • Hi Stella,
      I always enjoy experiencing some new facet of crow behavior. I’d love it if you could send me the video you took. I’ll create another comment with my email, but will delete it in a couple of days. Alternatively, you could post it to YouTube and share the link- other visitors to my site might want to see your video as well!


      • Stella says:

        Thank you Loma. I will email it to you with a description of the different times/places he did it. I take pictures and video everyday to document his life, growth, and health. Have a great day! 😎


  7. JAMES HILL says:

    I am fortunate enough to live in proximity to a family of crows and we get to see their periodic “gathering of the clan” or “parliaments”. i am fascinated by their language, especially the unique “ratcheting” sound they make. Any ideas about what this vocalization means?


    • There is a vocalization that crows (and other Corvids) make which scientists call a “Rattle” call- I’m guessing that’s what you heard. Unfortunately, we don’t know what it means, although some researchers have noted that only female crows give that call. Sorry I wasn’t much help! I’m considering making a new page which demonstrates some of the different sounds that crows make, but can’t say if I’ll have it ready anytime soon (PhD students don’t have much free time).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s