In captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than some parrots. They also mimic other noises, like car engines, toilets flushing, other animals and birdcalls. Ravens have been known to imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to carcasses that the raven isn’t capable of breaking open.
Four years ago a friend and I went on a massive hike in the hills here in the UK. We decided to stroll into the nearest small town afterward, exhausted. It was a nice day so we sat outside a cafe and got a drink. While sitting there, I noticed a crow up on a roof across the narrow alleyway dropping pebbles on passing shoppers. At first I thought it must be trying to do something important, but when it called a friend over to join it it suddenly dawned on me that they were simply having fun. I counted 9 people they hit with a pebble, and each time they’d both let out this extended caw which must’ve been their version of laughter or a celebration. Then they got bored and flew away.
Ravens are known to possess a relatively high degree of cooperation between partners. These findings suggest that gestures evolved in a species that demonstrates a high degree of collaborative abilities, a discovery that might shed light on the origin of gestures within humans.
“Gesture studies have too long focused on communicative skills of primates only,” Pika said. “The mystery of the origins of human language, however, can only be solved if we look at the bigger picture and also consider the complexity of the communication systems of other animal groups.”