Thanks to cameras attached to the tail feathers of some New Caledonian crows, researchers have now observed the birds building tools and using them in the wild.
These elusive creatures were seen fashioning hooked stick tools to root out food – a remarkable discovery that sheds a bit of light on animal thought processes.
Or if it doesn’t, at least it shows us animal thought as interpreted via the cranial processes of humans like study author Jolyon Troscianko of the University of Exeter, in England.
“In one scene,” Troscianko said, “a crow drops its tool and then recovers it from the ground shortly afterward, suggesting they value their tools and don’t simply discard them after a single use.”
This is a likely explanation. But it is only one, and it assumes crows think like us, which may not be the case! I can think of at least three other options.
- The crow dropped its tool, forgot about it completely, and then in an “aha” moment, picked a hooked stick it suddenly found at its feet.
- The crow dropped the tool on purpose to fake out the potential food, and then grabbed the tool again when the mistakenly relieved morsel slithered into a more exposed location.
- The crow dropped the hooked stick when it realized it had a camera stuck to its tail and it was giving away the company secrets. And then picked the stick up again when it thought, “oh what the Hell,” if I keep acting like I’m committed to the hooked stick, they’ll never find out about all our other crow-made tools, like the cawk gun.”
Hard to know exactly what is going on in the tiny mind of a clever crow.
If scientists pasted a camera to your tail, what tool would they see you use?