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The black (and decker) crows: They use tools

The black (and decker) crows: They use tools

Two class on Earth are famous to use hook-shaped tools: humans and New Caledonian crows. And now, for a initial time, a people have held a birds regulating them on camera.

Their camera crew? The crows themselves.

There are crows all over a world, though a class on New Caledonia, a forested island in a South Pacific, are eminent for their ability to make and use tools. Among other things, they conform sticks into pointy poking instruments and use them to “fish” for wood-boring larvae stealing in passed timber or tree trunks.

In a new study, scientists report how they prisoner some of a crows’ many formidable handiwork on video, interjection to specialized tiny cameras and 19 avian auteurs.

“We’d seen it before and other researchers had seen it, though nobody had managed to fire any videos,” pronounced Christian Rutz, a behavioral ecologist during a University of St. Andrews in Scotland and coauthor of a study, published this week in Biology Letters.

Rutz, afterwards during Oxford, and Jolyon Troscianko, afterwards a connoisseur tyro during a University of Birmingham, combined “mini view cams” specifically propitious for birds. In late 2009, a researchers deployed them on 19 furious New Caledonian crows in hopes of documenting a birds’ surprising function with bending hang tools.

“Some people consider we need a vast mind to use tools. These crows oppose that,” Rutz said. “They uncover impossibly formidable apparatus behavior. The large doubt is: Why and how? What is special about a crows on this island?”

Other bird class are famous to use tools. For instance, a Galapagos woodpecker finch uses cactus spines and twigs to hunt for insects, and a Egyptian vulture bangs stones opposite ostrich eggs to moment them open.

But a New Caledonian bluster indeed fashions a collection into a offshoot shape, that is unheard of for any non-human species. This gives a crows entrance to food sources that are tough to strech by regulating usually their beaks.

Difficult island turf creates it tough for researchers to watch a birds directly. Researchers who have attempted have run into some problems.

The crows “are so extraordinary as a class that they would start watching us instead of a other proceed around,” Rutz said. “The bird would proceed us and observe a cameras and binoculars.”

Instead, a scientists motionless they indispensable a proceed to see by a eyes of a crow.

First, they built a camera that could insert to a underside of a birds’ tail feathers. These early bluster cams transmitted live video behind to a margin worker.

But they kept losing reception.

Rutz and Troscianko suspicion they could get around this by recording onto micro-SD cards inside a cameras. But that meant they’d have to collect a cameras after they let furious birds fly divided with them.

So they devised a decidedly low-tech solution: They used pieces of inexpensive birthday celebration balloons to insert a cameras to a birds’ tail feathers. After about a week, object would reduce a rubber adequate for a balloon to mangle and a camera to tumble to earth.

After that, Rutz and Troscianko used embedded radio transmitters to lane a cameras and collect them up.

“Once we have a still vigilance for utterly a while … chances are we possibly have a sleeping bluster or a (camera) has depressed off,” Rutz said.

Altogether, a span were means to collect 10 of a 19 cameras.

Most important, 4 of a crows filmed themselves regulating tools. Those 4 birds spent 19 percent of their foraging time regulating their tools. (The rest of a time, they used their beaks.)

That usually 4 of a 10 crows were seen regulating collection raises some wily questions.

Were cameras not recording when a other birds were regulating tools? Or is it a pointer that some New Caledonian crows don’t use collection during all?

Either way, Rutz hopes his videos can yield some discernment into bigger questions about how apparatus use developed and because it’s so singular in nature.

“That seems to be an evolutionary puzzle,” he said. “Why do so few animals use tools, and because are we humans so good during it?”

Twitter @seangreene89

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