Textbook example of ‘spontaneous’ toolmaking challenged by wild bird studies
James St Clair
Betty, heralded as a toolmaking prodigy among New Caledonian crows, may not have been such a whiz bird after all. Her apparently spontaneous wire-bending is getting a closer, skeptical look based on new information about what the birds do in the wild.
As a lab resident, Betty astounded researchers more than a decade ago by bending a wire into a hook — with no obvious design cues or known experience — and then using the hook to retrieve a treat from the depths of a tube. Described cautiously in 2002, the report of Betty’s hook became “widely considered one of the most compelling demonstrations of insightful behavior in nonhumans,” says Christian Rutz of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Now, tool tests of wild New Caledonian