New Caledonian crows make tools

This is a video of a coral reef in Lifou, New Caledonia.

From Associated Press:

Crows bend twigs into tools to find food

AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON — Mounting tiny video cameras to the tail feathers of crows, researchers discovered that the birds use a variety of tools to seek food, and even make their own tools, plucking, smoothing and bending twigs and grass stems.

“We observed a new mode of tool use that was not known before. We saw them use tools on the ground, using a little grass stem to poke and fish into nests,” researcher Christian Rutz of England’s University of Oxford said in a telephone interview.

New Caledonian crows had been known to use sticks to probe rotting trees for grubs, but they were never seen to use tools on the ground before.

“The ecological niche they exploit with tools is larger than had been thought,” Rutz said of the findings published in Thursday’s online edition of the journal Science.

Rutz’s research team studies New Caledonian crows in the lab where they have been known to bend wires into tools to retrieve food. They wanted to see if the crows have similar behavior in the wild.

But it’s hard to observe the birds on the Pacific island of New Caledonia both because of the heavy forests and the birds’ sensitivity to having people around.

So they came up with the idea of feather-cam, a 13-gram video camera they tested on lab crows and then took to the forest. A gram is about the weight of a paper clip.

The camera is attached to the tail feathers of the crow and bends forward to record the belly, feet and sometimes the head of the bird.

“They do make tools, which is quite unusual. They do not just pick up any random twig,” Rutz explained.

He said the birds select the twig they want, break it off and sometimes smooth it or bend it into a hook. They also like to use dry grass stems, which are more flexible, he explained. Especially good tools were kept for future use.

The crows were observed to eat an average of eight small items per hour, such as beetle larvae, small lizards and small fruits.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 17, 2010) — A new study using motion sensitive video cameras has revealed how New Caledonian crows use tools in the wild: here.

Clever New Caledonian crows can use three tools: here.

Parent crows teach young New Caledonian crows how to use tools: here.

Biologists have discovered how New Caledonian crows make one of their most sophisticated tool designs — sticks with a neatly shaped hooked tip. New Caledonian crows are the only species besides humans known to manufacture hooked tools in the wild. The study reveals how crows manage to fashion particularly efficient tools, with well-defined ‘deep’ hooks: here.

New Caledonian crows extract prey faster with complex hooked tools: here.

Scientists studied crows and concluded that they are capable of reasoning: here.

Scientists Recruit Crows as Filmmakers to Study Tool Use. By Elizabeth Preston | December 28, 2015 3:30 pm: here.

Kagus of New Caledonia: here.

Keep the Lagoons of New Caledonia intact: here.

American crows: here.

Anger a crow and it will remember your face for over five years and warn its friends about you: here.

9 thoughts on “New Caledonian crows make tools

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