In Aesop’s fable, The Crow and the Pitcher, a thirsty crow finds a pitcher of water, but discovers that the water level is too low to reach. The crow solves this problem by dropping stones in the pitcher. The water level rises with each stone that the crow drops in and eventually the crow reaches the water. The moral of the story? Necessity is the mother of invention — and corvids can solve problems.
Corvids are in the family Corvidae under the genus Corvus. Corvidae include ravens, crows, magpies, jay, and several more species (Taylor 2014). Under the genus Corvus there are approximately 40 species.
“Family” and “genus” refer to taxonomic ranks. Taxonomic ranks are how scientists categorize organisms/species. In this example both jays and crows are in the same family, Corvidae, but jays are categorized in the genus Cyanocitta and crows are categorized in the genus Corvus.
Four species of organisms can make tools: the human, the chimpanzee, the orangutan, and the New Caledonian crow — a corvid (Taylor 2014). While several species of Corvidae and Psittcaids (parrots) can use tools, New Caledonian crows can make them (they make hooked sticks).
New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) use hooked sticks to extract insects from hard to reach places, such as burrows made in logs by beetles. Tool-use in these crows is an evolutionary adaptation — meaning that over time (a long period of time) the species began to use sticks as part of their foraging, or food-gathering, routine. Recent research has demonstrated that the Hawaiian Crow, called ‘Alalā (Corvus hawaiiensis) can also use tools to find food.
Watch an experiment in this YouTube Video where a New Caledonian crow creates a hook-like tool from a branch to extract meat from a log.
In this YouTube Video watch how a New Caledonian Crow displaces water to retrieve a piece of meat.
Stay tuned for more information about Corvids!