The New Caledonia Crow Is No 'Bird Brain'

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For the longest time, scientists believed that humans were the only ones who had the intelligence to build and use complex tools to solve day-to-day issues. However, recent research has revealed that a number of animals also display similarly intelligent behavior.

The fact that the chimpanzee tops the list should come as no big surprise - after all they do share 99% of our DNA - But the New Caledonia Crow? Found only in the remote South Pacific Island of New Caledonia, the bird resembles other crows in every way, except for its sophisticated tool use, which beats not only most birds, but also most primates, including monkeys.

Researchers at Oxford University and the University of Auckland, have been following the New Caledonia Crow for many years now, and what they have discovered so far, is quite fascinating.

The fact that the crows use many kinds of tools, which they craft from trees and shrubs is not that surprising - many animals and even insects are able to do that. What is surprising is that they can select the right tools or use them in combination to get a task done - A sign that clearly reflects the intelligence of the species.

To test this, University of Auckland researcher, Alex Taylor and his team, showed seven crows a piece of meat inside a tree hollow and then placed near them a stick that was too short to get to it. Right next to it they also placed two cages, one with a useless stone, the other with a stick that was long enough to pull the meat.

They then watched in awe as each one of the birds figured out how to get to the meat - by first using the small stick as a tool to pull out the longer one and then utilize the latter, to get to the food.

Alex and his team then reversed the sticks placing the long one near the birds and the short one in the cage. While the crow's first reaction was to perform the previous routine, they quickly realized they didn't really need to and went on to pick the meat using just the long stick. While this kind of logical reasoning is common in humans, it has so far been observed only in chimpanzees and orangutans in the animal world - And, it gets better.

The latest study of these super-intelligent crows shows that they are now using their expertise in using tools to grab themselves the most nutritious foods - beetle larvae. Researchers have always wondered why the crows spend so much time trying to dislodge the larvae from tree trucks with twigs - a task that takes a lot of skill and patience.

Now, they have the answer - Apparently, these tiny grubs are so nutritious that eating just a few is enough to provide the crows with their day's nutritional needs - A fact they have obviously figured out a long time ago.

What's next? Researchers are going to test to see if eating these nutritious larvae is the reason the crows are so smart and also, if they teach their tool-making smarts to the young ones - So, stay tuned for more news about these super-smart New Caledonia crows - Who knows, they may soon even oust the Chimps!

Sources:news.sciencemag.com,scienceblogs.com,eurakaalert.com, users.ox.ac.uk

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86 Comments
  • isabellaMonday, January 8, 2018 at 11:43 am
    cool
    • AwsomenessThursday, April 6, 2017 at 12:08 pm
      That is so cool
      • peteralTuesday, August 18, 2015 at 8:49 am
        smart bird
        • roytWednesday, May 27, 2015 at 7:20 pm
          pretty smart that bird is no bird brain
          • 😀Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 2:58 pm
            That's nice.
            • nicole
              nicoleWednesday, September 28, 2011 at 7:35 am
              cool!
              • T-dogTuesday, August 30, 2011 at 8:49 pm
                Bad
                • T-dogTuesday, August 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm
                  It's O,K,
                  • T-dogTuesday, August 30, 2011 at 8:47 pm
                    Cool
                    • DixieFriday, January 7, 2011 at 9:35 am
                      Those birds are smarter than my dog!! Cooool!!!