Crows may be best tool users outside of humans

New research shows species of crows on an island in the Pacific Ocean — similar those found in Nova Scotia — may be the most efficient tool users in the animal kingdom outside of humans.

Halifax zoologist Andrew Hebda says crows in the South Pacific were outfitted with tiny spy cameras

Andrew Hebda, zoologist for the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, says crows may be best tool users in the animal kingdom, outside humans. (Alex Mason/CBC)

New research shows crows in the South Pacific are likely the most effective tool users in the animal kingdom outside of humans, according to the curator of zoology at Nova Scotia's Museum of Natural History.

Andrew Hebda says scientists attached tiny spy cameras to crows in New Caledonia, a French territory in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Fiji. The species is a close cousin to the crows here in Nova Scotia, Hebda said.

"They attached these cameras to the two middle tail feathers of the bird," he told CBC Radio's Mainstreet

"So essentially the cameras were facing forward and shooting up between the legs. And basically looking to the spot where, if the crow is going to be pecking at something, where is it going to be pecking."

They had been observed making tools by field workers in New Caledonia. The tiny cameras confirmed the crows use their beaks to break off pieces of twigs, strip the bark off and make hooked tools.

Hebda said the would hold the long end and poke the hook into little cracks in bark to scoop out bugs to eat.

If you notice a crow exhibiting similar behaviour here in Nova Scotia, Andrew Hebda wants to know.


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