# Could Crows be used for Recon

Unit Info:

On a fallen world that has firearms and combustible fuels. Society is still advanced in a way, but is more tribal/feudal in nature. One nation has an armed order called the Iron Guard that protects the nation’s borders with deadly firepower and brutal force. But they were more defensive then offensive and really slow in movement (there wearing big heavy iron amour). If an attacking force sneaks past them it would be hard for the Iron Guard to pursue the enemy, so the Iron Rangers were founded. The Iron Rangers unlike their name had little in the way of iron amour only a mask and a iron breastplate, but made up for it with cunning and skill. The Iron Rangers are used as scouts, saboteurs, and all around man-hunters. The recruits are from all over the nation but most of them are from Redstone. The reason for this is that the hardy people of Redstone have pet Crows that they use to hunt other people with.

The Crows Info:

The Redstone Crows have been trained in a way that makes them seek out other humans. When the Crow spots a person and or group they will start to sway side to side in a pattern that when a Ranger sees will know that there are people that way (helps the Crow from not getting shot also). Even if the Ranger doesn't see this when the crow comes back it will be agitated and very vocal, a clear sign that the way it came has danger. If the Crow doesn't come back at all, it is also a "very clear sign" that there are people in the area... that are well armed and good shots. The crow will not react to other Iron Rangers and Iron Guard in the area because of the masks that they wear (turns out crows are very good with faces and can tell friend or foe).

The Question: Could Crows be used for Recon

Would love to see if this could work and if there are any drawbacks in using Crows for recon. As always, if you want any more detail don't hesitate to ask.

• AFAIK crows are surprisingly skilled at pattern recognition. You might be able to train them to identify people by the banners they carry around. – Philipp Jun 11 '18 at 11:45
• In a work of fiction, it would not be too far from reality to have crows trained to talk. – alephzero Jun 11 '18 at 18:26

Have your crows be independent contractors.
The flock chooses to associate with the humans and does recon of its own accord. The voluntary association of corvids with large predators has been well described.

https://owlcation.com/stem/The-Raven-and-the-Wolf-A-Study-in-Symbiosis

What I meant specifically, was that ravens tend to go hand-in-hand with wolves that hunt rough terrain for their own needs in way of food. Ravens will also be in the area of licensed hunters, as well as poachers, which can make the poachers very easy to locate, since they are generally about the area during off-season for hunting.

Crows cannot open large carcasses alone and need help from large predators. One reads of crows / raven following armies for that reason: meat. The crows signal where potential prey is and then follow the predator to it. Probably these sorts of interaction work best with social predators like wolves or humans.

The coffee is working well for me this morning. The character of Crowfeeder stepped into my mind. A noncombatant because of age, or gender, or caste, or inclination, she follows the warriors. After the battle she strips the enemy dead and prepares them for the crows: opening the skin, cracking the skull, and with the help of her mule hanging them in the trees. The story writes herself around her: she is alone, an untouchable corpsehandler disdained by the humans with whom she travels. But she is loved by the flock - and so has access to the crow world and the worlds at its borders. She interacts with the dead and the dying, and in doing so learns their secrets.

• never thought of it that why i was going on a dependence relationship, then a coexistence one. also love the idea the Crows follow the Rangers because they get them "food" if you get what i mean ;) – Creed Arcon Jun 11 '18 at 12:21
• @CreedArcon As an aside, check out the Danish 'Valravn' myth. Crows that feed on corpses (sometimes a king's corpse) mythologically gaining great intelligence and malevolence. Even keeping it hard science, calling them 'valravn' would be a neat mythological hat-tip. – Ynneadwraith Jun 11 '18 at 12:35

I would say yes, with some caveat.

First things that comes to mind is that somebody else already attempted using crows for scouting in fictional works: his name was Noah and he sent out a crow to search for dry land after the flood, and the crow never came back.

Mythological works apart, crows are rather smart birds, and have been reported using tools and passing that knowledge among generations. I have personally seen crows dropping walnuts on my windows to crack them open (the nuts, not the windows). As the OP suggests in his comment below here, they can be conditioned to be faithful to humans.

Another thing that the above story suggest is that a crow not coming back is no sure sign of other humans around. Crows can be hunted also by other predators, or fall victim of incidents. Moreover, knowing "there are humans somewhere" is no big info for a scout. It would be better to know also where, when and how many.

To add another critic, humans are decent at spotting anomalies: a crow zig-zagging above my head would quickly rise my suspicion.

I think it would be better if your trained crows would simply circle above the humans (like they were looking for food, easily found in human garbage), and then leave, heading back to their human masters, where they could report at least on the direction of the scouted party, and maybe even on their number (think something like hitting the beak once per spotted person).

• i have looked after a few Crows before, a Crow can be faithful to their human masters if you look after them since they were born (sometimes i will admit they leave). they are both cunning adaptive so them getting killed outside of human involvement is going to be rare. they fly only in one direction when they are let loose, so its easier to tell were the people are at. – Creed Arcon Jun 11 '18 at 11:34
• Also worth noting that Corvids are some of the smartest birds in the world, able to work out complex problems. They could be trained (might take a while but its possible) to come back and place pebbles (or something) on a sheet to mark how many people they spotted, and if you had a specific bird to fly in a set direction always, then the bird that places the rocks tells you how many and where – Blade Wraith Jun 11 '18 at 11:48
• -1 for basing the claim Apparently then crows are not so skilled in leadership recognition and faithfulness on not only a work of fiction, but also clearly calling it a work of fiction before making that claim. – dot_Sp0T Jun 11 '18 at 12:01
• @CreedArcon, OP is the shortening of Original Poster (you, in this case) – L.Dutch Jun 11 '18 at 12:28
• Reaches for popcorn and watches fallout of the "Noah=fiction" comment... – VBartilucci Jun 11 '18 at 14:59

We have used pigeons for recon work. If pigeons can do it, surely crows can too, right?

During WWI and WWII, pigeons were outfitted with cameras by both sides in each war.

[I]n 1932 it was reported that the German army was training pigeons for photography, and that the German pigeon cameras were capable of 200 exposures per flight. [...] Although war pigeons and mobile dovecotes were used extensively during the Second World War, it is unclear to what extent, if any, they were employed for aerial photography. According to a report in 1942, the Soviet army discovered abandoned German trucks with pigeon cameras that could take photos in five-minute intervals, as well as dogs trained to carry pigeons in baskets.[26] On the allied side, as late as 1943 it was reported that the American Signal Corps was aware of the possibility of adopting the technique. WP

From the article, it appears that birds were used far more extensively for messenger duty than recon duty. But this proves the idea was used in a few cases.

There are photos of the birds, outfitted with cameras, at http://twistedsifter.com/2012/05/history-of-pigeon-camera-photography/ This site also includes some of the photos the birds took.