Crows, jays, and ravens make up most of the birds in this family present in Montana. Birds in this family are the most intelligent in the Avian world. They make tools for collecting food. They have demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests (a feat that even the smartest humans don’t demonstrate until they are nearly 2 years of age). In fact, some of my best friends don't seem to demonstrate self-awareness even as adults. Far from being “bird-brained,” the brain mass to body mass ratio of birds in the Corvidae family is equal to that of many primates (most of whom never master the mirror test), and nearly that of humans. I wonder how much more information we require before we stop treating birds and other non-human animals as non-thinking, non-feeling machines, capable only of acting on instinct. I suppose if it were merely a matter of information, any reasonable threshold would have been surpassed long ago.
Below are pictures of six Corvidae species, identified thanks to Mary Ann Cincotta and my mom. We still need a blue jay, a western scrub jay, and a pinyon jay. Blue jays and pinyon jays are present in substantial numbers in Montana, but the western scrub jay has been sighted here a grand total of one time in the past 10 years (and yet for some reason is not coded as “accidental” in the Montana Field Guide (upon which our quest is based). We may have a candidate for bird #353.