Crows safeguard sticks to speed future food-finding forays

crows safeguarding sticks

New Caledonian crows safeguard the sticks they use to find food by either tucking them under their toes (left) or keeping them in holes (right).

B. Klump et al/Proc. B 2015

New Caledonian crows are protective of their tools. The birds safeguard the sticks they use to find food and become even more careful with the tools as the cost of losing them goes up.

Researchers videotaped captive and wild Corvus moneduloides crows and tracked what the birds did with their sticks. In between eating, the birds tucked the tools under their toes or left them in the holes they were probing. When higher up in the trees, the birds dropped the tools less often and were more likely to leave them in the holes they were probing than when they were on the ground. The finding, published May 20 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows how tool-protection tactics can prevent costly losses that could keep the crows from chowing down.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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