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Stone The Crows!

“Stone the crows” is an English expression used as an exclamation of incredulity or surprise. The saying may not be as common as it once was but crows have recently started to surprise the scientific world and reopen the debate as to whether animals can process real intelligence. Crows, ravens, rooks and magpies belong to the Corvidae family of birds. They have the reputation of being among the most intelligent birds.

One of the more remarkable things which has come to light is that crows in Japan have being using cars to crack open walnuts! The crows balance on telephone wires, looking down onto the road, reminiscent of a scene from the famous Alfred Hitchcock film.

They take nuts which are hard to crack and drop them onto the road. Some crack open from the impact but many of them are tough nuts to crack. So, the crows have come up with another plan.

They fly down and place the nut in the path of oncoming vehicles. When a car drives over the nut, it cracks open and the crow swoops down to collect its bounty. If, on the other hand, the car misses the nut, the bird repositions it on the road and waits for another vehicle. The other amazing thing is that the crows do not get run over and seem to possess road traffic awareness! You can see them waiting patiently with humans for the traffic to stop. It is a truly amazing sight, but you have to wonder: how did this come about? Was it a fluke that a crow saw or realised nuts left on the road could be opened this way? Or did one of them come up with this elaborate plan? That would require some kind of thought process.

Many people believe the human mind is unique and that animals can only carry out simple mental processes, often linked to instinct. There is, however, a growing number of scientists who are trying to prove that animals can solve problems and learn by example, in much the same way as children do. In the case of the crows, nuts dropped from a height will break, though walnuts tend not to, due to their softer outer shells. The fact that crows are placing walnuts strategically has got scientists intrigued.

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come to light (idiom) – make or become widely known or evident.
reminiscent (adj) – similar to something else.
swoop (v) – fly or glide downward.
fluke (n) – an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck.
elaborate (adj) – made or done with great care or with much detail..
intrigue (n) – to arouse the interest or curiosity of.

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