Birds are not generally perceived to be smart animals; in fact, it’s demeaning to call someone “bird-brained”.
But one day, I was reading a verse of the Qur’an involving a bird teaching early humans an important practice, which made me stop and think of the significance of the verse and the qualities of this specific bird, leading me to an interesting learning experience.
Here is the verse which is part of the story of the sons of Adam, Cane and Able: “The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones. Then Allah sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. “Woe is me!” said he; “Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?” then he became full of regrets-“ (Qur’an, 5:30-31).
My experience with the Qur’an is that when it singles out a creature, it means it literally and specifically, not broadly. It gives us a hint to look closer and study it deeper for a well of untapped knowledge.
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So I assumed this should be the case with ravens since the verse clearly appoints this bird as a mentor for humans, and clearly shows that humans would be humbled by the solutions found by ravens for some of their critical problems.
As a result, I wondered: which animal is the most intelligent after human beings? Like many people, I thought of the dolphins for that honor, but after a very enjoyable online search, I was in for a big surprise.
Latest research shows a very unexpected candidate for the top position in animal intelligence, the black bird, which many cultures consider as a harbinger of ill fate and death (maybe because of its solemn role of burial in the story above?), this super intelligent bird is the raven!
The Scientific American magazine published research results of scientists Bernd Heinrich and Thomas Bugnyar – Vermont University , Canada and St Andrews University, Scotland – which show the exceptional mental abilities of the ravens.
‘These birds use logic to solve problems and some of their abilities even surpass those of the great apes,’ they say.
In these experiments, ravens were given very complex tasks which they have never encountered before and they’re not programmed for doing naturally, yet they managed to succeed every time, finding creative, logical solutions to the tasks.
More surprisingly, they did it right the first time, every time, with no trial and error process whatsoever!
The experiments show that ravens were able to test possibilities in their minds in record time, select the most effective solution, and apply it correctly the first time they tried it, something that most intelligent creatures, cannot match.
Some experiments show that ravens are cunning enough to make other animals work for them to make their food scavenging easier, and to secure more than 90% of the prey others have hunted for them. Some have even learnt and taught others to make hunting tools.
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