Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another Example of Crow Intelligence

As if we needed further evidence for the intelligence of corvids, researchers studying New Caledonian Crows have found them using mirrors to solve problems.

Scientists captured 10 wild birds and placed them in large cages in order to record their behaviour in response to mirrors.

All the crows reacted to seeing their reflections as if they were encountering another crow; the birds made rapid head movements, raised their tails and even attacked the reflection.

Lead researcher Felipe S Medina Rodriguez said the crows' antagonistic reaction to their mirror image "was not surprising". He explained that an animal usually had extensive exposure to mirrors before it began to display an understanding that the image it was seeing was itself....

The second part of the experiment, though, revealed some surprising findings.

The scientists devised a task to test whether the crows could use mirrors to locate cubes of meat that were hidden from direct view.

All of the crows tested appeaed to understand how the meat's reflection correlated to its location.

"We were surprised by how quickly the crows learnt to use a mirror reflection to locate hidden food," said Mr Medina.

"Usually, it takes longer for an animal to start using the properties of mirrors to have access to otherwise non-visible objects."
Further tests ruled out the possibility that crows were using a sense of smell to find the food. Other animals that can interpret images in mirrors include African grey parrots, great apes, dolphins, monkeys and Asian elephants, but apparently these New Caledonian Crows were the first to do so without extensive prior contact with humans.

The linked article also contains a summary of a study on the problem-solving skills of Great Tits and Blue Tits.