This year, I spent a lot of time thinking about corvids.
In 2017, I couldn’t stop trying to identify corvids. It’s harder than you might think. My latest challenge: a photo of a black bird on the ground. It’s got the fluffy neck feathers of an adult raven and the blue eyes of a baby crow. I’m going with: Raven.
Turns out it’s an Australian raven, a species identifiable by their bright blue eyes. By the rules of #CrowOrNo, I win, because I correctly guessed it’s not a crow. (Though in fairness, I’d call it a draw.)
#CrowOrNo is a weekly Twitter challenge hosted by University of Washington crow scientist Kaeli Swift. Each week, she posts a picture of a bird, which always — to the untrained eye — looks an awful lot like a crow. For a few hours, the eager public submits guesses as to whether it’s a crow, or no. After the big reveal, she explains the clues to use to tell crows from their cousins.
The challenge helps illustrate the large and surprisingly complex world of corvids, a smart family of big-brained birds that includes crows, ravens, and jays. It also shines light on some great crow-themed mysteries, like why some crows have caramel-colored feathers.
That’s the value of taking science out of the lab to the social media sphere, like Swift is doing. And, crow or no, I think we could all use a little more science in our lives.
Jesse Nichols is a contributing assistant video producer at Grist.