Birds are smart. But some birds are smarter than others. I’ve mentioned before the tool-making skills of New Caledonian crows. Turns out these animal are capable of complex problem-solving. Here’s what Rebecca Morelle says, writing for the BBC:
A University of Auckland study has revealed that New Caledonian crows can use separate tools in quick succession to retrieve an out-of-reach snack. The birds were using reasoning that was more commonly seen in great apes and humans, the New Zealand team reported in the journal Current Biology.
New Caledonian crows are renowned for their tool-making ability. The birds (Corvus moneduloides), which are found on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia, use their bills to whittle twigs into hooks and cut and tear leaves into barbed probes that can extract bugs and grubs from crevices.
To further test the crows’ tool-using talents, scientists set seven wild birds a tricky task. The crows were presented with:
- A scrap of meat, which was tucked away, out of reach, in a box;
- A small twig, which was too short to reach the food;
- And another longer twig, which was long enough to reach the food, but was locked away well out of bill-grabbing range in another box.
The birds surprised the scientists with their quick thinking.
Alex Taylor, lead author of the paper, said: “The creative thing the crows did was to use the short stick to get the long tool out of the box so that they could then use the long stick to get the meat.”
Russell Gray, another author of the paper, told the BBC News website: “What is most amazing is that most of them did this on the first trial. The first time we gave them the problem, six out of seven tried to do the right thing.”
To read more — and to see a short video of this problem-solving behavior in action — check out the complete article.