Scientists led by Ben Ashton of the University of Western Australia tested the cognitive abilities of Australian whistling crows (Gymnorhina tibicen) living in Guildford, a suburb of Perth.
Whistling crows are found almost throughout Australia and in southern New Guinea and Tasmania. They were also introduced and took root in New Zealand and on some islands of the Fiji archipelago. They are about the size of the crows we are accustomed to, but they are black and white, which is why Australians usually call them magpies. They are capable of emitting long melodic whistling trills, as well as a wide range of other sounds, including imitating the calls of many species of birds. Whistler crows live in groups, one group usually occupies a certain territory for many years.
Ashton and his colleagues studied several of these groups over three years. The size of the groups varied from three to twelve individuals. The birds were subjected to several tests that tested their memory and ability to solve cognitive problems. For example, they had to remember which of the eight cells the food was in (mozzarella), or they had to get food from a special device. As it turned out, whistling crows from numerous groups cope better with all tasks. At the same time, success or failure was characteristic of a particular raven at once in all types of tasks.
Scientists have also tracked how the abilities of crows change with age. In one of the experiments, tests were carried out with young birds 100, 200 and 300 days after their departure from the nest. In the first test, no difference was found. But, when after departure 200 days passed, crows from large flocks began to outnumber those who grew up among a smaller number of relatives. The study authors believe that the social environment influences the cognitive development of the bird.
The crow came up with its own strategy
According to park rangers, the bird even developed a special technique for attacking cyclists during flight: it always aimed at areas of the face and head unprotected with a helmet. Often, after the attacks of an animal, people needed medical attention.
Representatives of the district council said that this particular specimen is very aggressive and completely uncharacteristic for their territory. However, it is known that these birds have never been peaceful, and especially during the mating season, whistling crows tend to actively defend their territory and attack anyone who may pose a threat to them.
According to the BBC, this species is protected by law in Australia, but in special cases, local authorities are empowered to act more radically. It is reported that attempts to catch the bird and move it away have been unsuccessful. Therefore, the district council requested permission to eliminate the crow with the help of a professional.
And no matter how the animal rights activists protested, approval for the shooting was received and carried out. Although the representatives of the authorities assured that this decision was very difficult for them.