In the video from Tokyo’s Kinshichō Station, originally posted to Twitter by user @kinoshi42155049, the corvid is filmed inspecting a ticket machine before hopping over to the customer at the next machine and stealing her credit card as her machine ejects it.
It doesn’t seem to know quite what to do after that point, though – it’s possible that it just wanted the card because of the shiny hologram sticker. (Apparently, the crow did return the card to its owner.)
— kinoshita shoji (@kinoshi42155049) May 1, 2018
But there’s evidence that corvids can easily understand bartering. Not only are crows able to reason out cause and effect, ravens have shown they can plan for the future and barter for the items they might need to be able to obtain high-quality food later.
And inventor Josh Klein in the US created a sort of crow vending machine that dispenses peanuts when the birds insert a coin – the idea being to train wild crows to find lost coins in exchange for a snack. Guess what, it works.
Of course, in all of these scenarios the crows have been shown the basics, but there’s evidence that wild crows can work out problems all on their own – such as using the way traffic lights stop cars to drop nuts to be cracked open by the traffic when it starts flowing again.
They even craft their own tools out of sticks to obtain food their beaks can’t reach, and save their favourite tools to use again.
To be clear, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that the crow in this video knows what a credit card is for, or how ticket machines work… but, based on what we know of corvid intelligence, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was trying to figure it out.
You can read some more about the incredible smarts of these amazing birds here.