Crows’ intelligence, new research

This video says about itself:

Sequential tool use by crow

6 Augustus 2009

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 in non-human animals without explicit training.

Betty does not attempt to probe for food, but immediately uses the tabletop tool to retrieve a medium-length tool. She then appears to look into the food-tube, without probing, before using the tool to extract the longest tool. Finally, she uses this tool to retrieve the reward from the food-tube. It is noteworthy that she seems to actively dispose of each tool as its role in the sequence is completed, and she also turns the tools around in order to place the cross-piece distal, where it is most effective as a hook-like instrument.

From Current Biology:

Crows Spontaneously Exhibit Analogical Reasoning


•Analogical reasoning is vital to advanced cognition and behavioral adaptation
•Some believe that analogical thinking is limited to humans or nonhuman primates
•However, crows too spontaneously solve higher-order relational matching tasks
•This is the strongest evidence yet of analogical reasoning in a nonprimate species


Analogical reasoning is vital to advanced cognition and behavioral adaptation. Many theorists deem analogical thinking to be uniquely human and to be foundational to categorization, creative problem solving, and scientific discovery [ 1 ]. Comparative psychologists have long been interested in the species generality of analogical reasoning, but they initially found it difficult to obtain empirical support for such thinking in nonhuman animals (for pioneering efforts, see [ 2, 3 ]). Researchers have since mustered considerable evidence and argument that relational matching-to-sample (RMTS) effectively captures the essence of analogy, in which the relevant logical arguments are presented visually [ 4 ].

In RMTS, choice of test pair BB would be correct if the sample pair were AA, whereas choice of test pair EF would be correct if the sample pair were CD. Critically, no items in the correct test pair physically match items in the sample pair, thus demanding that only relational sameness or differentness is available to support accurate choice responding. Initial evidence suggested that only humans and apes can successfully learn RMTS with pairs of sample and test items [ 4–7 ]; however, monkeys have subsequently done so [ 8–12 ].

Here, we report that crows too exhibit relational matching behavior. Even more importantly, crows spontaneously display relational responding without ever having been trained on RMTS; they had only been trained on identity matching-to-sample (IMTS). Such robust and uninstructed relational matching behavior represents the most convincing evidence yet of analogical reasoning in a nonprimate species, as apes alone [ 7 ] have spontaneously exhibited RMTS behavior after only IMTS training.

New Caledonia creates large protected marine area

This video says about itself:

National Geographic Pristine Seas Expeditions | New Caledonia

26 February 2014

Last year the governments of New Caledonia and Australia announced their commitment to create a large marine park in the Coral Sea extending across the maritime boundary between these two countries.

However, a large portion of the Coral Sea in New Caledonia (in particular the remote Chesterfield Banks on the western region) has barely been explored.

In November 2013, National Geographic partnered with Blancpain, the Waitt Institute and the Institute de Recherche pour le Developement (IRD) of New Caledonia to explore, survey, and film these remote reefs through a Pristine Seas expedition.

The team traveled to the Chesterfield and the Entrecasteaux Reefs on the north, as well as to Petri and Astrolabe in the east. The main objectives of this Pristine Seas expedition were to fill gaps in scientific data on this area and to produce a documentary film.

Relive the expedition in the National Geographic Explorers Journal blog.


New Caledonia officially creates world’s largest protected area (photos)

May 02, 2014

The government of New Caledonia last week officially created the world’s largest protected area, establishing a multi-use zone that at 1.3 million square kilometers is three times the size of Germany, reports Conservation International (CI).

The Natural Park of the Coral Sea (Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail) covers all of New Caledonia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is home to 4,500 square kilometers of coral reefs, 25 species of marine mammals, 48 shark species, 19 species of nesting birds and five species of marine turtles, according to CI. And because New Caledonia is governed by France, the commitment boosts the proportion of France’s national jurisdiction marine waters under protection from four percent to 16 percent.

The protected area is zoned for multiple types of use, including fishing under a management plan that aims for sustainability.

CI says the protected area will be integrated into the Pacific Oceanscape, an initiative by 16 Pacific Island nations and six territories to collaboratively manage nearly 40 million square kilometers, and the Big Ocean Network“This is a monumental decision for New Caledonia and the entire Pacific,” said David Emmett, Senior Vice-President for Conservation International’s program in the Asia-Pacific, in a statement. “Such a measure exemplifies what other countries in the Pacific can do to fully invest in the long term health and productivity of their ocean resources.”

Expansion of marine protected areas is needed to protect fish species that perform vital ecological functions, says a new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society: here.

New Caledonian birds recovery

This video from New Zealand says about itself:

With only around 40 left, the New Zealand fairy tern is one of NZ’s most endangered birds. Find out how DOC and local schoolchildren are trying to protect them.

From BirdLife:

Rat eradication success in New Caledonia

Sun, Sep 25, 2011

As part of a David and Lucile Packard Foundation project Société Calédonienne d’Ornithologie (SCO) the BirdLife Partner in New Caledonia, undertook operations in 2008 to eradicate invasive Black Rats Rattus rattus and Pacific Rat Rattus exulans from three important seabird islands in New Caledonia. The latest follow up surveys has confirmed that Table, Double and Tiam’bouène islands are all officially rat-free, and the bird populations are already showing signs of recovery.

The islands of Table (14 ha), Double ( 6 ha) and Tiam’bouène (17 ha) form part of the Îlots du Nord-Ouest Important Bird Areas (IBA) complex in Northwest New Caledonia. They are globally important for Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus, Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii, Fairy Tern Sterna nereis, Dark-brown Honeyeater Lichmera incana and Green-backed White-eye Zosterops xanthochroa which were being predated by introduced rats.

In September 2008 SCO completed operations to remove rats from the three islands, and the most recent follow up survey in mid-July 2011 has formally declared these operations successful following 24 months of rat-free monitoring.

Already bird populations are showing signs of recovery, and [Vulnerable] Fairy Tern nested on the islands for the first time in 2010; Tiam’bouène hosting a colony of 28 active nests. Another very encouraging result is the first ever presence of [Near Threatened] Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata which was found breeding on Table Island in July 2011.

On each island, along with many new bird species being recorded, SCO report that the eco-systems are also showing positive signs of recovery. SCO are grateful for the support received from several individuals and organizations in completing these eradications and in particular thank the Pacific Invasives Initiative, the New Zealand Department of Conservation, and BirdLife International for their assistance.

The removal of rats on these islands is therefore an important starting point for the management of IBA islands Northwest. It is also an important action for the conservation of Fairy Tern in New Caledonia with between 70 and 90 pairs now found in the IBA out of a total of 130 pairs in the country.

Next steps are to continue monitoring the biodiversity recovery of the islands, seek the creation of nature reserves to protect the tern colonies from human disturbance, and to expand rat eradication to additional islands included within the IBAs complex.

The Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus of New Caledonia is an iconic bird that symbolises the challenges faced by many island species in the modern era: here.

A new guidebook has been published by SCO (BirdLife in New Caledonia) which gives a concise description of the breeding, migratory and sea birds found within the Pacific country: here.

After years of planning a rodent eradication operation on Kayangel Atoll, Palau, has just been completed and is already showing early signs of success. “So far, there have been no reports of rats on any of Kayangel’s four islands”, said Anu Gupta – Conservation and Protected Areas Program Director for Palau Conservation Society (PCS / BirdLife Partner): here.

Birds and American mink on the Outer Hebrides: here.

Saving New Caledonia’s kagu birds

This is a kagu video.

From BirdLife:

Putting Kagu on the Map

Fri, Sep 2, 2011

Société Calédonienne d’Ornithologie (SCO – BirdLife in New Caledonia) have received support from the USFWS Wildlife Without Borders – Critically Endangered Species Conservation Fund to help save their national bird from extinction.

Kagus are listed as Endangered by BirdLife International on behalf of the IUCN Red List, and is the only living member of the family Rhynochetidae. Physical features of Kagu that make it distinct from other birds include its dramatic displays with its strikingly banded wings.

As with many bird species endemic to the Pacific, Kagu evolved without mammalian predators and its lifestyle – it is flightless and ground-nesting – makes it highly susceptible to predation, particularly by recently introduced mammals such as dogs, cats and pigs.

SCO have been striving to improve knowledge about the birds of New Caledonia, and is involved in the projects to protect both the birds and the habitats upon which they depend. In 2008, SCO compiled a ten year Kagu Recovery Plan.

This newly funded project deals with a crucial aspect of the Kagu Recovery Plan, namely the documentation of its distribution and density in priority areas. The most robust method for determining this (the first step in aiding their recovery) is to monitor Kagu calls using sound recorders. These are favored because Kagu are found in remote difficult-to-access forested areas, and only call for short periods of the day.

SCO have tested the recording equipment to ensure its efficacy and now urgently need funds to undertake island-wide surveys in areas where Kagu have previously been recorded. SCO will also train local “Kagu Listeners” – members of the local communities – to collect additional data and increase the capacity for on-the-ground conservation of the species.

Funds from the USFWS Critically Endangered Animals Fund amounts to about half of the total project costs, and will be used to implement some of the Kagu Recovery Plan’s most important aspects, through:

Assessment and monitoring of Kagu populations at four Kagu refuges
Raising awareness and enabling local communities to protect Kagus.
Establishing community Kagu monitoring.

This project is a vital part of a wider program of work to save the Kagu (which includes funding from The BBC Wildlife Fund) from extinction by identifying new locations which will become a focus for addition conservation actions, and increasing the capacity of local people to help conserve this charismatic species and national emblem of New Caledonia.

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.

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

Kagus of New Caledonia: here.

Keep the Lagoons of New Caledonia intact: here.

British birds and fruits: here.

American crows: here.

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