Planet Earth

New Caledonian Crows—the Bird Geniuses—Blow Our Minds Again

80beatsBy Andrew MosemanSep 16, 2010 6:45 PM

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From Ed Yong:

In New Caledonia, an island off the eastern coast of Australia, a crow is hunting for beetle grubs. The larvae are hidden within a decaying tree trunk, which might seem like an impregnable fortress. But the New Caledonian crow is smarter than the average bird. It uses a stick to probe the tunnels where the grubs are sheltered. The grubs bite at intruders with powerful jaws but here, that defensive reflex seals their fate; when they latch onto the stick, the crow pulls them out.

This technique is not easy. Birds need a lot of practice to pull it off and even veterans can spend a lot of time fishing out a single grub. The insects are fat, juicy and nutritious but do they really warrant the energy spent on extracting them? The answer is a resounding yes.

Check out the rest of this post

, including video of the crows at work, at Not Exactly Rocket Science. (The video above, of the birds making hooks, is from a different study a few years ago.) And for plenty more about bird geniuses, be sure to read the DISCOVER feature "Who You Callin' Bird Brain?

" It includes more avian smarts, such as hiding food underground and going back later to move it, just in case other birds were watching the first time and thought about stealing a meal. Related Content: 80beats: Not So Bird-Brained After All: Rooks Make and Use Tools

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Clever New Caledonian crows use one tool to acquire another

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Confirming Aesop - rooks use stones to raise the level of water in a pitcher

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