What species of birds do we use?
Our researchers study social and physical cognition in corvids (members of the crow family, which includes jackdaws, rooks and jays), from studies of alliance formation and post-conflict behaviours in rooks, and food-sharing in jackdaws, to tests of what jays and rooks understand about tools. Corvids are surprisingly intelligent birds and as such may be able to help us understand human behaviours.
What do we study?
Professor Nicky Clayton (Department of Psychology) has carried out pioneering research into the thinking power of corvids. Her observations have revealed these crows to be extremely clever. In Aesop’s Fables, the wise old crow drops pebbles into a pitcher of water to raise the level and allow her to drink. Clayton’s work has revealed that in real-life crows can, if they need to, use pebbles in just this way.
Corvids, including jays, cache food so that they can retrieve it later. They know who’s watching them and they also show the ability to plan ahead. Perhaps even more remarkably, corvids share their food. Male corvids even demonstrate an ability to understand what foods females prefer and will bring their mates tasty titbits.