The Crow Family
The popular imagination often associates high, lonely places with eagles, but climbers at both the very highest altitudes and more modest peaks are more likely to find the heights occupied by members of the crow family.
Family Corvidae includes crows, ravens, choughs, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, and nutcrackers.
Generally large birds (by songbird standards), corvids are often loud, unafraid of humans, and aggressive toward other birds and toward potential predators. Many will take food from humans (whether offered freely or not), and some also steal shiny objects. Some species are highly social, others are territorial, and some guard a feeding territory during the day but join a communal roost at night.
Corvid species are frequently mentioned among the most intelligent birds, having demonstrated self-recognition, tool-making, and problem-solving abilities. A recent study demonstrated that crows can recognize individual human faces, but I am unaware of any human ever being able to recognize an individual crow (unless the crow had a scar or similar marking).
The alpine zone is home to efficient soarers like choughs and ravens; travelers of forested slopes are likely to encounter jays.
A surefire way to identify a corvid is to look closely at the top of its beak: corvids have bristly feathers that extend forward over their nostrils. To varying degrees, corvids also all have sturdy beaks, a harsh, dissonant voice (though some are good mimics), and a tendency to walk, not hop, when on the ground.
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