I’ve given it a lot more thought, and at this point in time, see the recruitment of crows as a flight of fancy in terms of recognizing people in any sort of meaningful (to humans, anyways) way.
After fully reading the Marzluff paper, I don’t see the potential of crows and the application of their cleverness that the media has spun on it.
In terms of finding someone such as Osama Bin Laden or other person of interest, you need to:
- Know with reasonable approximation where he is located.
- Hope that coincides with (American) crow distribution:
- Go by the last known physical appearance, make masks, and train crows to recognize you as a threat so they’ll squawk when they see you.
- Hope his appearance hasn’t changed!
- Hope the crows see him and make enough fuss to make us humans notice.
I find that list to be a tall order for our noble avian friends, and a lot of effort on our part as well. The media has also spun this application to non-military, saying that crows could be used to find missing persons as well. I submit that you would need to satisfy the list above, and it would be a better use of everyone’s time to canvas an area rather than train crows to look for someone.
Not to take away from what I think is extraordinarily fascinating research! This was the first paper in a while that I was fully engaged from start to finish. And also kudos to the US military for thinking outside of the box. I know from personal experience the low percentage of investment in research leads to concrete results, but I will never fault anyone from using science to tackle a problem.