birding-aus Crows - special senses?

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Subject: birding-aus Crows - special senses?
From: "Bill Jolly" <>
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1999 09:34:10 +1000
A visitor here has been telling me that it is generally accepted by farmers
in the north of England that Carrion Crows are able to smell gunpowder.

Several anecdotal stories ensued about crows not being fooled by replica
guns, but consistently keeping their distance from the similar looking real
thing.  Even avoiding locations where guns were hidden behind walls.

The fellow telling me this wasn't a wide-eyed indiscriminate, but an
experienced, sagacious sort of a person who clearly believes implicitly from
his own experience that this is the case.

Has anyone any knowledge of this super sense of smell in corvids? They're
certainly bright enough to make the connection if they can smell the

It occurs to me that if crows are not bothering to shy away from objects
that to our eyes resemble shotguns, this could perhaps indicate that the
dummies don't look like shotguns to their eyes. In the same way that
kestrels can see the uv component in rodent's urine, could it be that there
is something about gunpowder that can be seen by crows, but not by us? This
also could account for the assumption that it is the gunpowder smell that
the crows are detecting.

I really have no idea about any of this, but I'm sure there must be an
explanation underlying such a widely held assumption.  

It makes you wonder how scarecrows ever worked!

Bill Jolly
"Abberton", Helidon, Qld   

ph  07 46976111
fax 07 46976056

email:  <>  
Visit our website at: <>  

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