Marlboro Flights: Dutch team plans to teach crows to pick up cigarette butts

Dutch start up Crowded Cities has developed a plan to use food rewards to teach crows to collect cigarette butts and put them in a bin.

The "Crowbar" plan will use a "Crow Box" to persuade wild crows to get more involved in human affairs. It has already taught tame birds to deposit dropped coins they find on the ground in exchange for peanuts.

The team are relying on the formidable problem-solving skills of the crow. The bird’s are able to use tools to reach food, and they can even use tools to get tools to reach food – see this YouTube video for a demonstration of their apparent reasoning ability.

It will probably be harder to teach crows to pick up butts, as there is no obvious connection between action and reward, however crows, like many birds, are good at learning from one another, so if one bird cracks it, others are likely to follow suit.

Crowded Cities say more than 6 billion cigarette filters are dropped in the Netherlands each year, and that it takes 12 year for them to degrade. It plans to monitor the effect of dealing with discarded cigarettes on the crow’s health.

Visit the Crowded Cities website for more information.

Image: A crow (Wikimedia Commons/R. Altenkamp)

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  1. Amazing I have often thought of teaching squirrels or pigeons to do the same thing. Or perhaps make fag butts edible to chickens then smokers can eat butt-fed chicken for ultimate resolution of the whole problem

  2. Need to fit a crow pro to them and hang round sites

  3. Stone the crows (only a figure of speach), how about making a law to ban smoking, might save a lot of effort!

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