Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Bird Brains

Posted by  //  May 7, 2020  //  Articles, Creature Feature

The crow is remarkably clever.  In France, it has been trained to trade littered cigarette butts for treats.  It can memorize human faces and recall positive or negative experiences associated with them.   It commonly uses a stick as a tool to pry prey from a hiding place, often carving a hook at one end with its beak to create a specialized device.  Juvenile crows have been observed using sticks to play fight.  This bird has an exceptional ability to problem solve.  In one test, researchers presented crows with assorted glass tubes partially filled with water.  A food reward was placed inside each, floating out of reach.  Various solid and hollow objects were provided.  The birds soon figured out how to displace the water by dropping objects into the tubes to bring the food reward within reach.  They learned to choose heavier, sinking objects over floating ones.  In another test, crows were given transparent boxes with a slot at each end and a visible food reward inside.  Long sticks were left nearby, which they quickly used to insert into one slot to push the treat out through the other.  Next, the long sticks were replaced with short ones that had receptacles allowing them to be joined.  Within minutes, the crows were building compound tools to reach the food, with some probes requiring 4 parts to work.  This is the first time compound tool construction has been noted in an animal other than a human, giving new meaning to the phrase “bird brain.”

Article & Photo by Margie Manthey

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