Wild crows reveal tool skills

Jan 11, 2010
Wild crows reveal tool skills
Crow tool use in the wild. (c) University of Oxford

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study using motion sensitive video cameras has revealed how New Caledonian crows use tools in the wild, Oxford University scientists report.

A new study using motion sensitive video cameras has revealed how New Caledonian crows use tools in the wild.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Previous work has shown the sophisticated ways in which crows can use tools in the laboratory but now a team of scientists from Oxford University and the University of Birmingham have investigated tool use in its full ecological context. The researchers recorded almost 1,800 hours of video footage for the study and publish their findings in .

In the wild, New Caledonian crows use tools for many purposes, including 'fishing out' large beetle larvae from holes in dead wood. In the new study the team were able to show for the first time that more larvae were extracted by crows using tools than with their beaks.

They also discovered that adult crows appeared to be much more skilled at obtaining larvae than juvenile crows, suggesting that considerable learning - possibly from copying more experienced ‘larvae fishers’ - is required for crows to become competent at this task.

Aside from recording the the team also collected a large sample of tools that crows had left inserted into larvae burrows. By comparing the length of the tools to the burrows, they found that, on average, longer tools are found in deeper burrows - suggesting that wild crows, like their cousins in the laboratory, are able to match the ‘right’ tool to the task. The collection also showed that wild do not select tools randomly, from debris on the forest floor, but are more likely to choose leaf-stems than twigs, and are more likely to use tools of a certain size range.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.


Explore further: For bats and dolphins, hearing gene prestin adapted for echolocation

More information: The report, ‘Tool use by wild New Caledonian crows Corvus moneduloides at natural foraging sites’, is published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Crows can use 'up to three tools'

Aug 05, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- New experiments by Oxford University scientists reveal that New Caledonian crows can spontaneously use up to three tools in the correct sequence to achieve a goal, something never before observed ...

Recommended for you

Why do snakes flick their tongues?

22 hours ago

Many people think a snake's forked tongue is creepy. Every so often, the snake waves it around rapidly, then retracts it. Theories explaining the forked tongues of snakes have been around for thousands of ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

OdinsAcolyte
1 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2010
Only the urban bred and raised did not already know this.
barakn
1 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2010
OdinsAcolye, how could having a rural upbringing possibly give you special knowledge of a crow species endemic to a small island group in the Pacific? Most rural people are not from Nouvelle-Calédonie and wouldn't have the faintest idea this species existed let alone have any idea about its behavior in the wild.
frajo
not rated yet Jan 11, 2010
OdinsAcolyte was joking.
Eco_R1
not rated yet Jan 12, 2010
crows in africa display the sam use of "tools" for similar tasks, nothing new...moving on
otto1923
not rated yet Jan 13, 2010
http://en.wikiped..._Pitcher
Possibly this fable originated in a real-life observation.
Crows are cool- ever listen to them talk? I remember at dusk in MI once i watched a huge flock- 1000s- passing for minutes. Didnt know they did that. Castenada's brujo Juan Matus taught him how to morph into one. But that was also just a fable (probably?)