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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Sledding Crow Is Amazing, Better At Sledding Than You

Too late to get him on our Sochi Olympics team?

by: Ted Alvarez


Crows are geniuses of the aviary world, but they’re also among the most extreme winter athletes. Behold this crow (possibly a hooded crow): It uses a jar lid to repeatedly cruise down a snow-covered roof in Russia. Check it:



Why would a crow do this (besides the fact that it looks fun as hell)? Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic called an expert in the genus corvine to find out:

It is a remarkable demonstration of the intelligence of the crow, which sits on a smart branch in the animal tree within the family Corvidae. There is something so deliberate about this play: the crow uses a toy; it searches for the best sledding path; it repeats the adventure down the roof; it keeps upright with its feet planted on the lid when, as a bird, it could simply fly. The bird does not want to travel down the roof, it wants to slide down the roof.


Science, of course, while acknowledging the coolness of the crow, didn’t exactly equate it with pure play. Alan Kamil, co-director of the Center of Avian Intelligence (sounds intense) at the University of Nebraska, explains:

"It is in keeping with the general reputation of corvids," Kamil told me. "I don't know what to make of it scientifically but it is a cool example of a play-like behavior in a corvid."


But wait:

"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," he said. "And sometimes that's true but more often it's false."

"I've worked with corvids, various species for 40 years now, and I have no doubt in my mind as a person that they enjoy certain things, playing around kinds of things, but I've never done research about it," Kamil told me. "I have a dog and talk to my dog and think of it as a little human being, but that's as a dog owner, not as a scientist."
Without precise experiments, the reasons behind the crow’s raditude will remain a mystery. Less mysterious: My desire to hoard jar lids and bring them to the ski hill crows the next time it snows.

Read more: The Atlantic


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