1 Tahrcountry Musings: Birds that Use Tools

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birds that Use Tools

Birds fashioning tools and using them to meet specific needs may sound something straight out of fiction for children .But it is true. Researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London have found that Rooks, a member of the crow family, are capable of using and making tools. The research was carried out at the University of Cambridge by Christopher Bird, a PhD student, and his supervisor, Dr. Nathan Emery from Queen Mary University of London.

Rooks do not use tools in the wild state. But amazingly in captivity they quickly learn this trick and were a step ahead of habitual tools users such as chimpanzees. When the correct tool was placed out of reach, they went for another tool to get it.

In a fascinating experiment the rooks quickly learnd to drop a stone to smash a platform and get a piece of food. They very easily mastered the right size and shape of stone needed for the purpose without any training or prodding.
In another test, the rooks were able to use a hook tool to get food out of a tube. The birds even managed to bend a straight piece of wire to make it reach the food.

The scientists presume that that rooks' ability to use tools and fashion them for specific purposes may be a by-product of a sophisticated form of physical intelligence rather than tool use having evolved as an adaptive specialization.
The results are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Online May 25, 2009)

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