Smart crows fashion hooked tools for food foraging in an ingenious and creative manner. It’s not yet certain that all crows exhibit this behavior.
Nonetheless, the verdict is out for New Caledonian crows dwelling on the South Pacific island. They are among the few known species to use tools (humans included) and even one of the more rare species in the animal kingdom that create these tools themselves.
These ingenious birds have eluded scientists for years. Just when a research team thought a glimpse of the New Caledonian crows’ toolmaking behavior was on display, the thought was dismissed.
One particular research observed the New Caledonian crows in captivity. Here, toolmaking and tool using was quite obvious. However, how sure can one be that this behavior wasn’t learned while in captivity? To find out, a new research began. A scientific team travelled to the South Pacific island to attach video cameras to the tails of a few specimens of the New Caledonian crows.
The birds then unravelled the mystery by themselves: indeed, smart crows fashion hooked tools for food foraging in the wild as well as in captivity. The finding was both exciting and surprising. The video cameras caught the entire process. Although the initial footage was a bit confusing for the researchers as the New Caledonian crows moved around a lot, it soon revealed more information.
Slowed down and watched frame by frame, the video footage showed the New Caledonian crows picking up their material first. In order to create the hooked tools, the birds picked V-shaped resistant twigs. Then, with a snap just above and one just below the joining point, the first phase of creating the hooked tools was completed.
For the foraging tool to be complete, the crows adjusted the hook for width and length. Then, to make sure it will oppose no resistance, the bark and the extra leaves on the twig were removed. And all this in less than one minute.
Furthermore, as the hooked tools were taken out for a try for the first time, they were adjusted even further. If the crevice where the New Caledonian crows went to search for larvae, worms or insects were too tight, the hooked tools were thinned even further.
If they proved too short to reach the soil underneath leaf litter, another hooked tool was created in a glimpse.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia