My name is Loma Pendergraft, and I’m a graduate student in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington in John Marzluff’s Avian Conservation Laboratory. 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.