[ExI] birds again, derivative from: Re: Memes, genes Gregory Clark

Gregory Jones spike66 at att.net
Wed Sep 15 17:09:18 UTC 2010

--- On Wed, 9/15/10, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com>
> ...
> ...Certain memes spread among birds, or are reinvented
> frequently (using cars to crack nuts for example) but they don't
> spread to birds outside the corvus group...

Thanks for this Keith.  The corvus group (crows and ravens) are one of two I find particularly fascinating because of the way they interact with humans, such as that "Nevermore" business that caused E.A.Poe to outwardly freak.  

On my vacation last month I witnessed something I am still pondering the hell out of, a behavior that freaked my beak.  We were driving down from the Mount Rainier visitors center to our campsite.  A raven was standing beside the road as we approached, took off ahead of us and climbed to an altitude of about 10 meters.  Then she stayed slightly in front of and above our truck as we drove downhill, for perhaps three to five kilometers.  She was not flapping, but rather gliding, down the gentle slope ahead of me.  I watched her and came to the realization that she was surfing on the compression wave created by my truck!  I have seen seagulls riding a compression wave ahead of a ferry on Puget Sound (they do this on every trip) but I have never seen a corvus do anything like this.

I could be wrong in this next speculation, but here goes.  When I first saw that, I theorized that the raven had figured out that vehicles sometimes slay small beasts, which then provide a hot (well, warm) lunch.  But the next day, in approximately the same place, she (or another in her clone) did the same thing.  I began to ponder my initial theory and rejected it.  Reasoning: vehicles sometimes slay small beasts, but any individual vehicle doesn't do so very often.  When is the last time you ran over a mouse or a squirrel?  The food payoff for the bird following a car would be low.

So now my bold notion, and do feel free to refute for I am open to suggestion: that bird was playing.  I have seen seagulls at play, dropping and swooping to catch rocks.  I have seen ravens behave in such a way that looks a bit like play: doing the tough-guy posture to the big ugly two-legged beasts out at Waterfront Park in Sunnyvale.  But this car-surfing thing (if that is what she was doing) appears to be an example of a corvus at play.  What think thee, beast watchers?  

> This makes evolutionary sense because gaining high status
> (integrated attention) for improved reproductive success is important
> in young adults... Keith

The example I thought of is the Mormons sending their 19 yr old lads out on two year missions to bug the proletariat, calling them "elders."  An "elder" is hot property to the teenage Mormon girls, who struggle to harvest them quickly upon their return, often spawning a litter within a decade.  Johnny Grigg and Brent Allsop, do feel free to jump in here on that comment, in the lighthearted spirit in which it is intended.  {8^D


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