Bird Brained?
Video Segments: Ravens

These brief video segments can be used alone or in combination, to introduce a topic or to spark discussion among your students. The video segments can be adapted for any grade level – suggested focus questions are provided. Stream the video segments from the playlist below, or scroll to the bottom of the page to find downloadable QuickTime versions of the videos. These videos are also used in the lesson plan Bird Brained? (grades 9-12).

The traditional view of birds was that they simply acted by a set of inherited instincts, but new scientific research is revealing a larger role for complex cognitive processes in their behavior, including communication, counting, memory, and basic problem solving. These excerpts from the NATURE episode “Ravens” demonstrate several of these commonly accepted indicators of animal intelligence as demonstrated by the most brainy of all birds-the raven.

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Suggested Focus Questions:

Clip 1: Raven Adaptability

  1. What makes ravens so adaptable?
  2. Ravens eat meat but they don’t kill it themselves. What kind of animal does this make them?
  3. How might ravens’ relationship with coyotes indicate their intelligence?

Clip 2: Feeding Time

  1. What skill does the raven demonstrate at the dumpster?
  2. When and why might a raven puff out its feathers?
  3. How might ravens’ caching behavior indicate intelligence?

Clip 3: The Roost

  1. What’s one theory about why young ravens roost together?
  2. How might one raven be able to tell if another knows where food is?
  3. Why would a young raven, having found food, call over other ravens to help eat it?

Clip 4: Testing Intelligence

  1. Why is it so difficult to measure intelligence in animals?
  2. Why is it important that the ravens have never been exposed to the experiment before?

Downloadable QuickTime versions of the video segments:
(Note: To download a video, right=click on the video title and click “Save Link As…’ or “Save Target As…”. On a Mac, press the CTRL key and simultaneously click the mouse, then save the link.)

Clip 1: “Raven Adaptability

Clip 2: “Feeding Time

Clip 3: “The Roost

Clip 4: “Testing Intelligence

  • Tess Ferree

    This set of lessons worked beautifully for my grade 6 Language Arts class as a jigsaw, with members of each of four groups viewing and takiing notes on only one segment per group. Then they reported to members of other groups on what they saw and learned. Students were also required to write a paragraph describing something they learned from they lessong that they hadn’t known before and their reaction to it.

  • DJ

    Raven just know how to adapt to any type of environment

  • Trevor Parker

    Clip 1: Ravens eat meat and do not have to kill to prey. Ravens know how and when to take advantage of other animals to get their food and its also hard for them to survive because they rely on other animals to get their food.

  • Erica Thompson

    Clip 3: They roosted together because they wanted to share information to where their food is.

  • Erica Thompson

    I agree with Trevor because Ravens really don’t have to kill anything, they can just have other animals get their food and once the animal leaves then the Raven will go forth and eat whatever is left of the animal.

  • Tevonshe Brown

    the raven is so adaptable because of were it lives and the food it eats. Ravens are scavengers.

  • Cody Rogers

    Clip 1
    The Ravens are Scavengers, because they dont kill their own prey.

  • Cody Rogers

    Dj is correct because scavengers can strive in every environment

  • Tawny

    Clip 2: Ravens puff out their feathers when either they want to look big or territorial, physical appearence means a lot to them

  • carol mclaughlin

    In 2002 I found a young crow on the ground, unfledged with poor whitish/grey feathers, probably 3.5 wks old. I still have that darling and he stunned me with his intelligence and abilities to problem solve. he was a mere 10-12 months old when curiosity alone, not meat tied to a string, would lead him to haul up a heavy drying towel on a rack to inspect the tag on the seam.

  • Takilla

    Ravens have to be both tough and flexible.

  • Shaniqua Sparrow

    Clip 3: The Roost
    Question 3: The younger ravens call over other ravens to help eat the food because the older more aggressive ravens would attack them on sight for being in their territory. The more younger ravens there are, less chance the older ravens have of attacking them. The older ravens will be outnumbered.

  • Shaniqua Sparrow

    I disagree with Tevonshe Brown. Ravens are not only adapatable because of where they live and they food their eat. Their adapatable because they can survive off of not just meat but anything they can find to eat, and because they dont have to kill their own food. They use other animals to basically do their “dirty work”. They can survive in almost any climate and weather.

  • tenaj

    clip 1
    Ravens eat meat but they don’t kill it themselves. What kind of animal does this make them?

  • tenaj

    i agree with tawny that they make them selfs seem big.

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