New Caledonian crows are the first vertebrates to be shown definitively to have an instinctive tendency to make and use tools, contend researchers who doubled as bird nannies.
Two crows hand raised without seeing twig use spontaneously started using sticks to poke food out of crevices, says Benjamin Kenward of the University of Oxford in England. These untutored birds employed the twigs as competently as did two other crows that Kenward coached in twig poking.
One of the untutored birds also spontaneously made a crude version of a leaf tool that the species makes in the wild. Kenward and his colleagues report on their young crows in the Jan. 13 Nature.