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I live in a semi-rural area in Germany, close to a park which trains go through every 20 minutes.

Today, I saw something that left me perplexed.

There is a large population of birds that look like crows or ravens, yet fatter. They seem to be quite social and move around in large groups. Today, I spotted one carefully laying sticks from a nearby tree on the train track while the others seemed to spectate.

What exactly was that bird doing? Is this common? Did it have a purpose, or was it just coincidental?

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    $\begingroup$ Some corvids do use tools, and are fast learners. Could these be using the train and tracks as tools to cut sticks up smaller? $\endgroup$ – EnergyNumbers Feb 2 '13 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ There is a book, In the Company of Crows and Ravens that details human-corvid interactions. That might provide insights for you. The link is: yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300100760 $\endgroup$ – kmm Feb 2 '13 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers - I want to believe :) $\endgroup$ – F. P. Feb 3 '13 at 0:53
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    $\begingroup$ If the birds are doing in this in a place where you can watch them repeatedly, why not set up camera to watch them? I recommend a pocket camcorder with a big SD card (which is nice to have in general). I don't think anyone will be able to tell you for sure without footage of what they do after putting them on the tracks. They could have just chosen a really bad place for a nest, or it could even be courtship behavior. $\endgroup$ – Atl LED Jan 8 '14 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ If the sticks were somewhat large, they may have been putting them on the tracks so that the trains would break the sticks into smaller pieces (which would probably be easier to build nests with). $\endgroup$ – lunafish Jul 12 '14 at 1:16
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There is a large population of birds that look like crows or ravens, yet fatter. They seem to be quite social and move around in large groups.

First of all, this seems like a crow. Crows are very social birds, they live in flocks or murder.

Theory: It may be a Mating Ritual?

No! The have a very spectacular mating ritual!.

Theory: It's Making a nest

Obviously No! Crows nests are always way hidden at 18-60 feet above ground(mostly) in the tree trunk.

My Theory

Crows are very curious birds. What you saw, might be a new play the young crows found. It's common that crows will do unusual thing when spectated by the elders and siblings.

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Crows have been known to use human actions in order to accomplish their own purposes: read this story about them using cars and waiting for the lights to change at a crossroads. Then of course, the question is whether they have a specific purpose in your case with these sticks, or whether it's just... for the fun of it?

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