Thursday, August 6, 2009

More Bird Brains

Yesterday I posted a video clip of a crow creating a tool to retrieve a bucket containing food. Today, the NYT has an article about rooks figuring out how to add stones to a container of water to raise the water level, bringing a floating food reward within reach.

This group of birds, the corvids, includes crows, rooks, ravens, jays and a number of other genera and species. As a group, they are incredible problem solvers. Here in western Oregon we have two species of jays: the scrub jay, which is quite similar to the eastern blue jay, but not as colorful and with no crest, and the Stellar's jay, which is similar in form, but with a crest and almost black with an irridescent sheen. Scrub jays dominate the valley floor, and the Stellar's tend to higher elevations. There were several summers I watched a scrub jay hang out on a oak branch extended over a street here on the OSU campus with a hazelnut in its beak. When a car approached, it would drop the nut just before the car passed under the branch. If the tires crushed the nut, it would fly down and eat. Otherwise it would fly down, grab the nut, fly back to the branch and wait for the next car. The closest hazelnut tree was a couple blocks away, but this particular street was the busiest one nearby.

While I dislike the noise that jays make, they are fascinating to watch.

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