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Report from New Caledonia Part 3: Are Crows Smarter than a First-Grader?


Have you ever wondered what it’s like be in the field researching a book for the Scientists in the Field series? Here’s the day-by-day, play-by-play, behind-the-scenes story of Crow Smarts (2016), the amazing story of New Caledonian crows, famous for their brainpower and their ability to make and use tools. Our adventure is already underway, but you can click here and here to learn about our first days in the field. Be sure to check back for more updates as we explore the amazing lives of these clever crows!

Day Ten We can’t go into the aviaries because an experiment is finishing up. So Andy I and drive to the eastern side of the island. He drops me off and drives farther north to take photos of the dramatic rocky coastline. I stay at a seaside hotel and make plans to go scuba diving the next day.

Day Eleven The dive boat heads out into large swells and the captain decides to abort the dive. Rats. All geared up and no place to go.

Day Twelve Aviary day! Guido De Filippo, a University of Auckland graduate student, demonstrates two different experiments that have been run with the crows. You’ll have to wait for the book to come out to learn just what these clever birds can do…and how they can out-perform first-graders! All of the birds we photograph are from a place called Yaté, in the southeast corner of the island. The Yaté crows will be released as soon as the experiments are finished, and Andy and I hope to be there.

Day Thirteen Back to the aviary for some final photos. Gavin has drilled a hole in a piece of wood and secured Plexiglas to the back—it’s housing for Andy’s tiny GoPro camera. We record a short video clip of a crow sticking a tool into the hole to pull out a chunk of meat–from the meat’s point of view.

Day Fourteen Experiments are going on in the aviary, so Andy and I take a field trip to the zoo in Noumea, capital of New Caledonia. Their walk-in aviary allows Andy to get close-up shots of kagu, among the rarest of New Caledonian birds.

Next up: Crow Freedom Week!

by Pamela Turner

About Pamela Turner


Pamela S. Turner lives in Oakland, California with her children and her husband. She has a B.A. in social science from UCAL-Irvine and a Master’s of public health from UCAL-Berkeley. She has written numerous books for young readers, including Hachiko and the Scientists in the Field titles Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes, The Frog Scientist, Project Seahorse, The Dolphins of Shark Bay and her forthcoming work, Crow Smarts. Visit her website at

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