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Crow Tools

September 3, 2007

Crows use tools and higher order reasoning to solve a challenging puzzle.


Can crows think outside the box? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Humans aren’t the only animals to use tools. In fact, New Caledonian crows manufacture three different kinds of tools to help them get food. In a recent experiment, evolutionary psychologist Russell Gray and his colleagues at the University of Auckland in New Zealand hid a piece of meat in a hole. They provided the birds with a stick that was too short to reach the food, but could be used to retrieve a longer stick from a box. On the very first try, 85 percent of the birds solved the puzzle and accessed the food.

RUSSELL GRAY (University of Auckland):
They used the short stick to get the long stick and then took the long stick to the hole.

Instead of using trial and error, Gray says the crows engaged in a higher level of reasoning to obtain the food, a mental feat that rivals even the great apes. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.