Crows Birds stealing coins from car wash?


(UPDATE: Duke of URL wrote: "I noted your article about quarter-stealing birds. It seemed familiar, so I checked Snopes; I was right - this story came out years ago.")

My favorite TED talk of 2008 was given by Joshua Klein, who built a vending machine that crows can deposit coins into in exchange for peanuts. (Here's the video of his talk.)

Today, Phil Torrone posted news about a gang of thieving <strike>crows</strike> bthat are stealing coins from car wash vending machines.

Bill is the owner of a company that manufactures and installs car wash systems. Bill installed one of these systems in in Frederick, MD. The issue arose when the buyer complained he was losing significant amounts of money each day. He even accused Bill and his employees of ripping him off.

Naturally, Bill proceeded towards investigating the issue. He decided to mount a video camera to see who exactly is stealing all the coins. Imagine his surprise when he saw several birds carrying all the coins in their nest. After following the birds, he discovered its quarters on the top of a car wash and more in a tree, an estimated amount of $4,000.

Phil muses, "So many questions, who is giving them peanuts, is this based off Josh's work or the other way around, a fake?"

I'll bet Rupert Sheldrake would be interested in this. :)

Crows stealing coins from car wash (Make Blog)


  1. Four thousand bux worth of quarters? Bullshit.

    Replace the “,” with a “.” and move it one spot to the right, maybe.

  2. I don’t think that’s a crow. I just wish I could remember what kind of bird it is. Starts with an “s”, I think?

  3. #7 – I second the suckiness of those highly invasive starlings. It’s probably about to try to eat those coins.

  4. It’s definitely not a crow but a snipe. I know that because my cousins used to take me hunting for them.

  5. I don’t know about you guys but if I was a betting man I’d say that was a starling.
    Also Snopes says it’s in Fredericksburg, Virginia not Maryland

  6. Though they are mostly an invasive PITA over here, strlngs (or dwarf European mynahs, if you prefer *grin*) do make what my family calls pepper sky.

  7. Old, old story I get periodically from well-meaning friends.

    Definitely a European starling, not a crow. Just look at that bill and the size.

  8. Why would this be based off Josh’s work or the other way around?

    Some birds collect shinny objects. That’s well known and is why Joshua Klein’s work exists.

  9. Starling, crow, swallow, who cares?

    The real question is, what are they saving up for?

    My money is on a family holiday in Aruba.

  10. Crows LOVE shiny things. I once knew some people who had a pet crow. Their roof was covered with shiny stuff he’d packed home from all over. For fun we used to give him a nice shiny thing the right size, but too heavy for him to fly with and watch the flapping and frustration. :D

    They’re pretty smart birds. Great personality and very funny.

  11. I, for one, welcome our new Cro…starling overlords. That is, until, the Deep Crows here about these starling shenanigans. There will be hell to pay. Hell. 2. Peigh.

  12. ok, so why hasn’t anyone suggested the obvious yet? put one of joshua’s machines next to one of bill’s and make a killing selling peanuts to pesky birds who don’t know the true value of a quarter!

  13. The King of Crows is stirring… but what is he doing in the Americas?

    800 pages of novel about this, please.

  14. looks like a starling. i can tell from some of the feathers and having seen quite a few starlings in my time.

  15. I did not get why Rupert Sheldrake would be interested in this. Is he the guy who got stabbed? I do not follow the connection.

  16. Regardless of the fact that it’s a starling, doesn’t $4000 seem like a lot of quarters to put in a nest? In a tree? Even on the roof of the car wash it’s hard to believe it could go unnoticed! My guess about what we’re really seeing in that photo is the bird is clearing out coins from the nest it has made in the coin-return cup.

  17. Hahahaha, I’m from Frederick actually. So it amused me to no end that one of my favorite sites was featuring this story.

    Yes, that is a starling…a crow would be much larger, and they’re all over the place here.

    I’ll tell you something else – pretty sure that bird is smarter than a lot of the criminals around here.

  18. PS For the sake of being accurate, a trait I am proud of and a quality I hold in high regard, just found out this pic is from FredericksBURG, VA, not Frederick, MD….oh, well.

    People have already posted the snopes link, so that’s that. That’ll teach me to get excited about things…

    BTW, Hungry for Coins is lol.

  19. Starlings: you can’t trust ’em. Not only will they steal coins, they will a crow in the process.

  20. Question for radio Yerevan: Is it true that crows are stealing coins from car wash vending machines?

    Answer: In principle, yes. But first of all, they are not crows but starlings; second, they are not car wash vending machines but.. but.. come on, someone help me out here. I totally had something a minute ago.

  21. I love starlings. And grackles. And yes, Snopes sucks. They are most certainly and evil disinformation organization, I’m not sure yet who they are working for. They still insist to this day that there is no such thing as “grade d but edible beef” even though I saw a box labeled that way with my very own eyes. I hate them.

  22. I post this in all crow-related threads: if you like them there birds and the folks that study them, pick up a copy of Bernd Heinrich’s Ravens in Winter.

  23. I live in Frederick, MD, and my hopes for seeing this were crushed not once (snopes, 2002, blahblah) but twice (Fredericksburg, VA). Thanks guys!

    P.S. It’s a grue. Coin done lost his torch.

  24. “You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St. Starling’s…” (-a better rhyme than St. Martins, anyway…)

    Anybody who thought it was crows was contemplating MURDER… MURDER I say! Muhuhuhhahahahah!

    AGIES@40: You’re link to Coin Bird was the bees knees. (Yes, I’m thinkin’ ’bout the birds and the bees…)

    Good thing someone got to the bottom of this, or we’d have to call out the Car Wash Change Thief Action Squad! (Can anyone find a link to this hilarious Mr. Show sketch? Alas, I could not…)

  25. … there was a link to this very story in the *fourth comment* when you posted the TED talk back in February. And even there it refers to it as an “oldie”…

  26. Skramble; I think the reference to Rupert Sheldrake was based on his theory that all organisms are connected through a “morphogenetic field” and that advances in learning by some in the population leads to a collective wisdom by all. For example if rats learn to run quickly through a maze in North America through trial and error then rats who have never been in the maze will run through it more quickly regardless of where they are (perhaps even in Europe). I think Mark was trying to suggest that the learning that crows have been doing using the crow vending machines of Joshua Klein has transferred to other birds not connected to the vending machine directly. Or perhaps Rupert likes Starlings… I don’t know.

  27. anyone know WHY crows and starlings love shiny objects?

    No idea. Anyone know how to keep the back of my iPod shiny? Must be shiny! Clean!

  28. So, how can we teach crows (or any kind of bird) to do that? That would be a great skill for a homeless person to have – teaching birds to bring him money in exchange for peanuts.
    Now that I think of it, that’d be a great skill for ME to have.

  29. See, I was gonna comment to say that’s a grackle, but apparently what I’ve always known as grackles are actually starlings, and grackles are a different kind of bird entirely.


  30. I read somewhere that crows’ interest in shiny objects turns to aversion once they hit maturity.

  31. It’s a starling. Starlings are awesome. Starling language has syntax. They don’t just mimic, but this site has starlings mimicking human singing. It’s one of the most alien sounding things I’ve ever heard… http//

  32. ANTHONY@65: If ever crows start pelting me with coins, now I’ll know why. I would have probably taken it personally. Thanks.

  33. whya dissin’ starlings?

    “bird” in the title

    think someone’s been crawlin’ in one of your holes and stealing neurons.

    blame it on crows. (birds)

    lime you!

  34. Anthony: No, I thought you were saying they start to hate shiney objects later in life; to have an aversion to them in maturity, like: “What kind of a mate did you ever bring me, shiney coins! Pttui! (-sound of a crow spitting out a coin.)” I’m no animal behaviour specialist, so it sounded perfectly reasonable to me…

  35. Phikus, it’s all good. May you only be pelted by shiny valuables, and no other matter from the likes of crows, starlings or grackles.

  36. The problem started when the new owner complained to Bill that he was losing significant amounts of money from his coin machines each week.

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