Meet the mastermind inhabitants of Paignton beach

Common Raven (Corvus corax). Crow

Biologists have come to the conclusion that crows are more intelligent than the average seven-year old child. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Do you know, when walking along Paignton promenade, you are often in the company of genius?

I know it doesn’t always feel like it – especially when you see the occasional acts of mindless vandalism of our beautifully recently restored Victorian shelters – but it is true, you will never be too far away from incredible minds that would find the MENSA test an absolute doddle!

So, who are these mastermind inhabitants of Paignton beach?

Well, they aren’t human - they’re not even mammals, these feathered ‘Einsteins’ are avian – they are the common crow. 

Now, if that revelation seems a bit of an anti-climax, stick with me for a moment, for what these funereal-looking birds lack in flamboyant colours or eye-catching looks they certainly make up for in sheer brain power.

Research appears to show that crows have a type of consciousness and self-awareness only before seen in humans and primates. 

Crows have been shown to use tools, recognise faces and work out how to solve complex problems.

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Biologists have come to the conclusion that crows are more intelligent than the average seven-year old child. 

Our Paignton beach crows are something extra special; if you sit for a moment in one of the shelters and watch them, you may spot one flying down to the beach and returning to the roadside with a mollusc in its beak. It will then fly up in the sky, dropping it onto the road below.

The drop sometimes smashes the shellfish but if not, I’ve actually seen them position a particularly hard-to- open shell in the way of an oncoming/parking car for it to crush! 

A clear example of their incredible forward planning skills. 

Their Torquay brethren aren’t quite as adept in their shell-breaking skills; not being blessed with a procession of slow-moving cars, they have to rely on dropping their molluscs from a great height onto the sea wall, with mixed results, although there must be some success as the wall is, in parts littered with shell remnants. 

One clever bird though, has taken up position near the traffic lights and drops his shell, only retrieving the results when the lights turn red! Bird brain? Not on your nelly!