back to article Boffins show sleight-of-hand tricks to Corvids, find they are smarter than people

Psychology boffins at the University of Cambridge have been pushing back the barriers of understanding via the unlikely-sounding practice of trying to fool birds with magic tricks. The team of scientists from one of Britain's most august seats of learning decided to embark on this project in order to test whether the birds – …

  1. Red Sceptic

    Of course, they had to show us this through a tweet.

  2. lglethal Silver badge

    Well there is a reason we call Psychologists "trick-cyclists"!

    Here's hoping the Corvids dont start crowing about being smarter than humans...

    1. JetSetJim

      I suspect the authors will swiftly be nominated for an Ig-Nobel prize. Icon for deserved equivalent prize.

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I saw a video narrated by Chris Packham where a corvid was up against a dog (a beagle as I recall) to solve a puzzle where they had to pull on ropes to get some food to drop. And the corvids beat the dog hands down on several attempts.

    I suspect if corvids could communicate with humans they would be better conversationalists than most reality TV show stars.

    1. GrumpenKraut

      > I suspect if corvids could communicate with humans they would be better conversationalists than most reality TV show stars.

      I find that pot plants are better conversationalists than reality TV show stars, without even talking.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I find jam doughnuts are better conversationalists than most people regardless of their stardom. (And being a software engineer who really couldn't care less about most people or their insignificant little lives, I include myself in that category. :)

    2. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Jay Leno, Jan Raven, Sheryl Crow, Homer Jay Simpson ...

      they walk among us.

  4. MOH

    We need a magic show face-off between corvids and orangutans

  5. Bibbit

    So this was that bird study everyone’s been raven about.

  6. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Bird brain ?

    Are avian brain cells different to mammalian ones ? Looks like they are more efficient ...

    1. JetSetJim

      Re: Bird brain ?

      Perhaps not as efficient as the dragonfly. Only 16 neurons for that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bird brain ?

      The neurons in a bird's brain are more tightly packed together, so their brain capacity by volume is far greater than ours.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Bird brain ?

        It just goes to show size doesn't always matter.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bird brain ?

          I guess if our brains evolve along the same path it's possible we'll have neurons packed just as tightly 66 million years from now.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > "The team of scientists from one of Britain's most august seats of learning decided to embark on this project in order to test whether the birds – six Eurasian Jays, formally known as Garrulus glandarius, which are chatty, strikingly coloured birds of the Corvid family – perceived the tricks in the same way that humans do,"

    Haven't scientists learnt their lesson regarding messing with corvids? We don't want another Wuhan.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It wasn't that unfunny:-(

  8. Identity

    Bewilderbeast ...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I once was able to trick a raven into opening an email attachment but when prompted to enable macros the bird just muttered: "Nevermore"

  10. TRT Silver badge

    Good job Pelegrin...

    didn't try that trick with a Peregrine. The thumb itself would have made a suitable substitute for the tasty morsel he was trying to palm.

  11. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    This is science?

    Okay, so they found that amateur slight-of-and works better on humans than Corvids. Now, bring in a real magician & see what happens.

    I have no idea, but it is entirely likely that there is some sort of significant tell that the birds were using. The statement that they ignored the motions is highly speculative at best.

    Come on folks, state your hypothesis before you design the test. Surprising results are great, but leave the explanations to later experimentation.

  12. Aussie Doc

    Optional sensible title here

    Ah, yes - ravens. Not unlike Aussie crows.

    Researchers at the UNSW (University of New South Wales) found over 200 dead crows near the greater Sydney area recently.

    They was concerned that they may have died from Avian Flu, quite scary given the current situation with COVID-19.

    A Bird Pathologist examined the remains of all the crows and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was definitely NOT Avian Flu nor COVID.

    The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts, specifically trucks (lorries).

    During the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colours of paints appeared on the bird's beaks and claws.

    By analyzing these paint residues it was determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with trucks, while only 2% were killed by an impact with a car.

    UNSW hired an Ornithological Behaviorist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills.

    The Ornithological Behaviorist concluded the cause:

    When crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger.

    The scientific conclusion was that while all the lookout crows could say "Cah", none could say "Truck."

    Thank you and good night - I'm available for weekends via Teams, Zoom or Moodle.

    1. GrumpenKraut

      Re: Optional sensible title here

      You had me right until the end. Yes, I did miss the icon.

      VB for you ------->

  13. mjflory

    Prior research

    "Garcia-Pelegrin has not ruled out using his talents to try and vex more animals in the name of science."

    It's been done.

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