The aim of our study was to re-examine the acquisition of problem-solving behaviour in ravens: accessing meat suspended from a perch by a string. In contrast to a previous study, here we: (i) controlled for possible effects of fear of the string, competition by dominants, and social learning and (ii) devised a mechanically equivalent but non-intuitive task to test for the possibility of means–end understanding. One-year-old ravens confronted with meat on a string for the first time tried several ways to reach the food. However, five of six birds suddenly performed a coherent sequence of pulling up and stepping on loops of string, essential for solving the problem. Those five birds were also successful in the non-intuitive task where they had to pull down the string to lift the meat. A second group of birds with similar exposure to strings but without any experience in pulling up meat failed the pull-down test. These results support the idea that the ravens' behaviour in accessing meat on a string is not only a product of rapid learning but may involve some understanding of cause–effect relation between string, food and certain body parts.
Someday I will come up with a good reason why I am friends with the neighborhood crows. For now, I can say that it started when I looked up from my office window to see this big flock of crows hanging out on the roof of an apartment building nearby. I had heard that these creatures, part of a larger family of birds called corvids, were among the smartest animals in the world. If they were that intelligent, I wanted to meet them. How could I get those awesome animals to come visit me? I decided to find out.
Six months later, I have made friends with about seven crows and two small, brightly-colored corvids called scrub jays — one of whom eats out of my hand. Like many scientists who study these animals, I've become convinced that these creatures are not only smart, but also have a theory of mind.
Whether this is fake or not, one problem with the video is that it shows one bird at a time taking one piece of food at a time and flying off. It seems more likely that one big crow would open the food container and eat it all before leaving. Or, since birds of a feather, to coin a phrase, flock together, that a designated crow would open the cover, allowing the others to grab all the food and empty the box immediately.
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