Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ravens Communicating by Gestures

A new study find that ravens can gesture with their wings or bills to point out objects.

To see if ravens communicated using gestures, scientists investigated wild ravens in Cumberland Wildpark in Grünau, Austria. Each bird was individually tagged to help identify them.

The researchers saw the ravens use their beaks much like hands to show and offer items such as moss, stones and twigs. These gestures were mostly aimed at members of the opposite sex and often led those gestured at to look at the objects. The ravens then interacted with each other — for example, by touching or clasping their bills together, or by manipulating the item together. As such, these gestures might be used to gauge the interest of a potential partner or strengthen an already existing bond.

"Most exciting is how a species, which does not represent the prototype of a 'gesturer' because it has wings instead of hands, a strong beak and can fly, makes use of very sophisticated nonvocal signals," Pika told LiveScience.
Apparently, the ability to use gestures for communication is a trait rarely found outside of primates like humans and chimpanzees. It has been recorded among dogs that have been trained by humans, but not among other animals in the wild.