In New Caledonia, an island off the eastern coast of Australia, a crow is hunting for beetle grubs. The larvae are hidden within a decaying tree trunk, which might seem like an impregnable fortress. But the New Caledonian crow is smarter than the average bird. It uses a stick to probe the tunnels where the grubs are sheltered. The grubs bite at intruders with powerful jaws but here, that defensive reflex seals their fate; when they latch onto the stick, the crow pulls them out.
This technique is not easy. Birds need a lot of practice to pull it off and even veterans can spend a lot of time fishing out a single grub. The insects are fat, juicy and nutritious but do they really warrant the energy spent on extracting them? The answer is a resounding yes.
Check out the rest of this post, including video of the crows at work, at Not Exactly Rocket Science. (The video above, of the birds making hooks, is from a different study a few years ago.)
And for plenty more about bird geniuses, be sure to read the DISCOVER feature “Who You Callin’ Bird Brain?” It includes more avian smarts, such as hiding food underground and going back later to move it, just in case other birds were watching the first time and thought about stealing a meal.
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