Unedited videos reveal the sophisticated tool-using behavior of Hawaiian crows

‘Alalā, or Hawaiian crows, are among the only birds in the world that use tools to catch prey. sci tech news

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2nd Tool-Using Crow Species Found

2nd Tool-Using Crow Species Found:

The critically endangered Hawaiian crow can use sticks to deftly fish for food that is out of reach, according to a new study. The discovery means there are now two known tool-using species of crows.

“The Hawaiian crows are incredibly good at using tools,” said lead study author Christian Rutz, a biologist at the University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom. “What we see is similar to the really skilled tool handling in New Caledonian crows.”

Until now, New Caledonian crows had been the only corvid (a group that includes crows, ravens and rooks) species known to use tools. These birds have become famous for their expert ability to fashion hooks from sticks to snag larvae and insects from crevices in logs or branches. [Creative Creatures: 10 Animals That Use Tools]

Rutz had studied the New Caledonian crow for more than a decade. In one paper, published in the journal Nature in 2012, he and his colleagues showed how the birds have physical characteristics that enable their tool control: straight bills and very large eyes with a large field of binocular vision.

Rutz told Live Science he wanted to look for other birds that shared these features, thinking those traits could be preadaptations for tool use. That led him to the Hawaiian crow, also called the ‘alalā (pronounced AH-la-la).

The one problem was that the birds had been declared extinct in the wild by 2004. (Just 131 are alive today.) So Rutz got in touch with San Diego Zoo Global, a nonprofit organization that operates the San Diego Zoo and was breeding the ‘alalā in captivity in Hawaii. People at the captive breeding facility told him they had sometimes seen the birds use sticks but didn’t think much of it.

“I immediately booked my flight to Hawaii,” Rutz said.

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Crows are first animals spotted using tools to carry objects

Crows are first animals spotted using tools to carry objects:

New Caledonian crows have figured out how to move two things in one fell swoop. The adept tool users have been filmed inserting sticks into objects to transport both items at once – a feat that has never been seen in non-humans.

Ivo Jacobs of Lund University in Sweden and his team recorded the unique behaviour in a group of captive crows (Corvus moneduloides). They saw how one crafty individual slipped a wooden stick into a metal nut and flew off, carrying away both the tool and the object.

A few days later, another crow inserted a thin stick into a hole in a large wooden ball to move the items out of the room.

The team observed four other instances of the crows’ clever trick. One of these involved using a stick to transport an object that was too large to be handled by beak.

The birds’ novel mode of tool use may be a reflection of their intelligence and exceptionally large brains. Although we already knew crows could use tools, adapting this behaviour to other contexts involving novel objects and purposes shows behavioural flexibility, says Jacobs. “This is typically seen as a hallmark of complex cognitive abilities.”

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