A full week after Osama bin Laden was killed, it might be time to give some credit to crows and ravens. Yes, you read that right. Crows and ravens.

For a few years, the University of Washington has been training and studying crows and ravens to test their ability to recognize human faces. As it turns out, the birds are really good at it. A few experiments by professor John Marzluff and some folks on campus wearing caveman masks revealed that the birds could not only recognize the individual “cavemen,” but would also swarm them on the University of Washington campus.

This drew the attention of the military, which contacted Marzluff and then gave him some funding to find out if the birds could be used to track down bin Laden. “[Crows and ravens] have a long -term memory, very acute discrimination abilities, and if a group of crows knew bin Laden as an enemy, they would certainly indicate his presence when they next saw him,” said Marzluff in a recent interview.

As it turns out, crows are smart on several levels. Researchers in New Zealand discovered that the birds can use tools to get food, and that the birds can teach their children to use tools through “home schooling.”

We will never know if birds had anything to do with bin Laden’s death. Those details, like the pictures of bin Laden and the identity of the Navy Seals who killed him, are unlikely to become public. So next time you see a black bird, consider that it might be more heroic than you think. And if you have a guilty conscience, you might want to hide your face.  After all, you wouldn’t want the bird to tip off the authorities.

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