Biologist Stacia Backensto has fooled a raven. When attempting to recapture birds on Alaska’s North Slope throughout her graduate scholar days on the College of Alaska Fairbanks, she wore a mustache and beard. She additionally strapped pillows to her waist.

“By the point I received round to the beard and the duct-taping of the pillows, I discovered myself with a 30-minute costume prep time earlier than trapping,” Backensto mentioned. “It was type of like on the brink of go onstage.”

Backensto, who studied how oil and gasoline improvement actions affected ravens, posed as “a grumpy previous oilfield employee” earlier than the half dozen ravens she had beforehand captured in Prudhoe Bay.

Biologist Stacia Backensto disguised to idiot ravens on Alaska’s North Slope. (Picture by Jim Zelenak)

“After I didn’t have my disguise on they have been a bit obnoxious,” she mentioned. The ravens generally dove at her or pecked laborious on metallic posts in her neighborhood.

She sometimes wanted to recapture birds that had misplaced their transmitters to be able to comply with them across the oilfields at Prudhoe Bay. She didn’t assume she may do it with out her elaborate disguise, which she accentuated by attempting to stroll otherwise.

“It really fooled a number of birds that knew me fairly nicely,” she mentioned. “In 50% of the circumstances, birds that knew me gave the impression to be confused.”

The dean of raven research within the U.S., Bernd Heinrich, a professor emeritus on the College of Vermont, additionally dressed as much as idiot ravens. He described it in his e-book, “Thoughts of the Raven; Investigations and Adventures with Wolf Birds.”

Heinrich as soon as stored ravens he had captured in a big pen. After a yr of residing in captivity, they turned comfy with him coming in to feed them, although the birds have been skittish round everybody else. Out of curiosity, he noticed how ravens reacted when he wore a kimono.

“After I wore it, they flew up (in alarm) at 15 yards, however it didn’t idiot them for lengthy,” Heinrich wrote. “After my thirteenth method within the kimono, they once more allowed me to get subsequent to them.”

John Marzluff, creator of “Within the Firm of Crows and Ravens,” did a examine on the College of Washington campus the place his analysis crew captured and tagged the raven’s shut relative, the American crow.

First, Marzluff’s crew wore latex masks of Dick Cheney and a caveman across the Seattle campus and seen that crows had no response to them. Then, the researchers captured seven crows with internet weapons whereas carrying the caveman masks. From then on, crows harassed individuals carrying the caveman masks, swooping and scolding that individual. Dick Cheney walked round unmolested.

“We did this experiment over a yr and half in the past, and to this present day crows are nonetheless responding to this caveman face,” Marzluff mentioned.

A raven in Alaska. (Picture by Ned Rozell)

The crows discovered to affiliate the caveman with one thing dangerous in 3 ways, Marzluff mentioned. The seven birds captured by the caveman remembered it, however different crows discovered from both watching the caveman seize the birds or from observing caveman-savvy crows scolding the individual within the masks when she or he appeared in campus crowds.

For a social hen that interacts with people, it’s maybe a bonus to recollect the dangerous eggs, Marzluff mentioned. He mentioned crows and ravens are distinctive on this method.

“I don’t know of different birds who do that within the wild,” he mentioned.

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