Researchers capture New Caledonian crows’ Most Complex Handiwork on Video

Researchers capture New Caledonian crows’ Most Complex Handiwork on Video

On our home planet Earth, there are two species that are known to use hook-shaped tools: humans and New Caledonian crows. Researchers, for the first time ever, have captured the birds using the tools.

There are crows across the world, but the crows on New Caledonia, which is a forested island in the South Pacific, are well known for their ability of making and using tools. In other things, they fashion sticks into sharp poking instruments, using them to ‘fish’ for wood-boring larvae that hide in tree trunks or dead wood.

Scientists conducted a new study where they described how they have caught some of the most complex handiwork of crows on video. They did so with the help of particular miniature cameras and 19 avian auteurs. The study was published this week in Biology Letters.

Coauthor of the study, Christian Rutz, a behavioral ecologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said they observed it before and many researchers had noticed it, but none of them was able to capture any videos.

Afterwards, ‘mini spy cams’ particularly fitted for birds came into being. Rutz, then at Oxford, and Jolyon Troscianko, then the University of Birmingham graduate student, created them. The researchers deployed these cameras on 19 wild New Caledonian crows in late 2009, with a hope to document the birds’ strange behavior with hooked stick tools.

Rutz said, “Some people think you need a large brain to use tools. These crows disprove that. They show incredibly complex tool behavior. The big question is: Why and how? What is special about the crows on this island?”

Sci-News reported that, New Caledonian crows – a species of oscine passerine bird found on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia – are renowned for their unusually sophisticated tool behavior. However, despite years of studies, very little is known about how they make and use their foraging tools in the wild, which is owing to the difficulties in observing these shy birds, according to Dr Jolyon Troscianko of the University of Exeter and Dr Christian Rutz of the University of Oxford.

“Our video-loggers provided first footage of crows manufacturing, and using, one of their most complex tool types – hooked stick tools – under completely natural foraging conditions,” the researchers said.

Engadget report said, it's well-known that crows are smart enough to make tools. However, catching that crafting on video is sometimes a big challenge -- unless you lure the birds to a feeding site, you probably won't see the behavior. That's where the University of Exeter is coming to save the day. It recently developed cameras that are small and light enough to sit on crows and record their activity, letting scientists get the first footage of New Caledonian crows making foraging tools in the wild. The cams even have microSD cards and radio beacons to help recover footage when the devices slide off after a few days.

The cameras are already leading to new findings. For instance, the crows don't just toss their tools aside after they're done -- they'll fetch the stick-based instruments if they fall to the ground. The data supports beliefs that crows' intelligence matches that of some primates, and it won't be surprising if there are more discoveries in the pipeline.

According to the YouthIndependent, caledonian crows have, for the first time, been caught on video camera using hook-shaped tools to extract insects from wood. While scientists have long known that these crows were capable of using tools, not much was known about how they make and use them.

In order to study the behaviour of the Caledonian crows, small cameras were attached to the tail feathers of several crows. The cameras captured the activities of the crows over a 2-week period before falling off to be collected.

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