Stories tagged crows

Oct
05
2007

Tooling around: A study being conducted in New Caledonia has video footage of crows using twigs and grass to make tools to gather and process their food. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Tooling around: A study being conducted in New Caledonia has video footage of crows using twigs and grass to make tools to gather and process their food. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
I’ve seen films that show chimpanzees using sticks and stones as tools to get and process their food. The narrators always say they’re the only animals to use tools.

Now comes research from New Caledonia, with video to boot, that shows crows make and use tools in their everyday life.

Researchers have mounted tiny video cameras on the tails of crows in that area to record their activities. The footage has even shown the crows manipulating twigs or grass stems to use as tools for gathering their food.

Earlier research showed that crows did use twigs or sticks to dig around for bugs or grubs in dead tree trunks. But new evidence from the video cameras shows that the birds also use grass-made tools on the ground to dig around in bird and animal nests on the ground.

In lab settings, crows have been observed bending wires into tools that they can use to get food. With the new footage, scientists now know that the birds actually use those behaviors in the wild.

The lightweight cameras, just 13 grams, are attached to the tail feathers of the birds. And they actually do modifications to the twigs they select to be their tools. The crows will break off portions of the twig, smooth the surface for bend it into a hook shape to suit their work purpose. And tools that they really liked were kept for future use.

The next big question for these crow scientists to answer: what were the evolutionary factors that have allowed crows to develop this talent and not other birds? Do you have any ideas? Share them here with other Science Buzz readers.