Research shows crows comparable to humans when it comes to waiting

Corvus brachyrhynchos or Corvus caurinus. Image: Wikipedia.

( -- In a new study published in Royal Society's Biology Letters, researchers have discovered that crows and raven birds show the same ability to complete delayed exchange tasks as monkeys and humans do.

The researchers, led by Dr. Valerie Dufour from the Universite de Strasbourg, began their study by training 12 to exchange tokens for food. They gave each bird a piece of food. Keeping their giving hand closed, they showed the birds the reward in their other hand. After a waiting period, the researchers opened their giving hand again. The birds then received the reward if they gave back the initial piece of food.

The maximum waiting period the researchers used was five minutes and the quality of the reward varied in each exchange. What the birds did during the waiting period varied with some birds leaving the food on the ground or hiding it and checking on it during the time period.

This study shows that the are able to wait before making a decision and that this behavior is not limited to only humans and . While the researchers believed that the birds would be able to wait a few seconds, they were surprised that the birds were able to wait as long as they did.

The destructive behavior, such as hiding the food and checking on it, enabled the crows to wait a longer period of time. Those birds with the longest all displayed this particular destructive behavior.

Explore further

Crows demonstrate their cleverness with tools (w/ Video)

More information: Corvids can decide if a future exchange is worth waiting for, Biol. Lett. Published online before print September 14, 2011, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0726

Evidence for time-dependent calculations about future rewards is scarce in non-human animals. In non-human primates, only great apes are comparable with humans. Still, some species wait for several minutes to obtain a better reward in delayed exchange tasks. Corvids have been shown to match with non-human primates in some time-related tasks. Here, we investigate a delay of gratification in two corvid species, the carrion crow (Corvus corone) and the common raven (Corvus corax), in an exchange task. Results show that corvids success decreases quickly as delay increases, with a maximal delay of up to 320 s (more than 5 min). The decision to wait rests both on the quality of the prospective reward and the time required to obtain it. Corvids also apply tactics (placing the reward on the ground or caching it) that probably alleviate costs of waiting and distract their attention during waiting. These findings contrast previous results on delayed gratification in birds and indicate that some species may perform comparably to primates.

via ABC

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Citation: Research shows crows comparable to humans when it comes to waiting (2011, September 15) retrieved 21 October 2019 from
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User comments

Sep 15, 2011
The image of the birds waiting for the better food is pretty interesting. Can someone tell me why hiding the food and checking back later is considered 'destructive' behavior? I would have preferred if they had defined it first.

Sep 15, 2011
This concurs with other long-standing evidence that birds are highly intelligent.

Sep 15, 2011
Humans make the mistake of equating a creature's consciousness with its physical size, and consciousness plays a vital role in intelligence.

Sep 15, 2011
Nature did not give birds and other animals a useless brain. Birds have proven that they can use their brain to survive the harsh environment ( I am thinking of a 20 to 30 g chickadee that survives the canadian winter) they live in and compete for food and shelter and that is no easy task.

Sep 16, 2011
i tell you what...

the chicken trained to play tic-tac-toe would do a better job at finding old links than physorgs search engine.

i love physorg but the search kinda sorta SUCKS!

there was a very interesting article here about how bird brains have been stigmatized as "weird".

they are simply and profoundly more efficient as they have to be light enough for flight and smart enough for fast 3-d navigation as well as all other survival skills.

i have seen sparrows hover in front of motion detectors outside of a grocery store causing the door to open, enter the foyer and then repeat the same behavior with the inner door, successfully infiltrating the GOLD MINE!

try to use search to find the article and if you are successful tell me what terms you used...anybody?

Sep 17, 2011

Interesting what I did find. Sufficiently so that I am not going to tell you how I did it.


Where a very similar post or rather a PAIR of posts was made with half of the new post in each. And not by Eric_B, well not by that name. Or even by just ONE name.

The first half was by eric_in_chicago who has a very large time overlap with Eric_B and is clearly the same person.

The second half was by Bob_B, who is still posting here, and thus also apears to be Eric_B.




Got any more sockpuppets Eric-Bob_B_in_chicago?


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