Something to crow about

It’s been known for a long time that birds of the crow family are clever innovators. Now The Times newspaper has reported the recent publication  (6th February) of a scientific study revealing just how discerning they are.

We have all tried to open lids with our house keys (usually bending them) or turn a slotted screw with a kitchen knife that just happened to be nearby. New Caledonian crows wouldn’t do anything so dumb. They have a clear picture in their mind’s eye of just the right tool for the job and refuse to use something that’s just conveniently lying around.

Only crows and humans manufacture hooked tools to fish for food in inaccessible locations. In the study the birds picked out twigs of specific diameter, length and flexibility to fashion into tools to hoik succulent little grubs from their hiding places in crevices.

When it comes to industrial research and development we can learn something from these picky avians. Rather than trying to make an idea work with the wrong starting materials, it’s far better to stay true to your vision and wait to invest your time and energy in the right resources.

If you want to find out more about the amazing innovation of these corbeau, take a look at the website of Professor Christian Rutz (Professor of Biology at St Andrews’s University, Scotland). You can find the full scientific paper in Biology Letters or on-line at the Royal Society website.