Sledding crow in Russia soars to Internet stardom

Crows are presumed to be reasonably intelligent, and they often exhibit playful behavior. But do they like to go sledding on the snow? The accompanying video shows a crow in Russia sliding down a snowy roof while standing atop a jar lid–not once but twice–in an episode that has stormed the web, garnering 2 million views during the past week.

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It’s sort of a clumsy display but in the footage it does seem as though the crow is actually sledding for the mere sensation of doing so. Or are people bird-brains for thinking that?

Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor for The Atlantic, put the issue of crows and playful behavior to Alan Kamil at the Center for Avian Intelligence at the University of Nebraska.

“It is in keeping with the general reputation of corvids,” said Kamil, after watching the video. “I don’t know what to make of it scientifically but it is a cool example of a play-like behavior in a corvid.”

That’s about as far as the scientist would crawl onto the limb.

“Human beings have a strong, strong, strong tendency that if we see an animal do something that’s analogous to what we do, like use a tool or answer an arithmetic question, we assume that the animal is doing it and understands the situation in the same way we do,” Kamil added. “And sometimes that’s true but more often it’s false.”

Perhaps, but non-scientists aren’t so restricted in their thinking. Note the laughter of the children in the video. What they’re seeing is a sledding crow, and the comical sight requires no further explanation.

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