From understanding death to crafting tools, ravens are the cognitive geniuses of the birding world. But these brain boxes have now added another string to their bow, as researchers have found that they can plan for the future to a similar extent as great apes.
It was recently uncovered that corvids – the vastly intelligent group of birds that contains not only ravens, but also crows, jays, and nutcrackers – can recognize when they have been cheated, and subsequently remember which person short-changed them for at least a month after the event. Now, a new study suggests they can plan for the future too, something that has long been thought of as a behavior exclusive to primates.
The taxing neurological task of planning ahead has almost always been found in humans and our hairier ape cousins. There have been previous studies that have hinted at ravens being able to plan for the future, but these have been limited to occasions in which they are catching food.
In a new set of experiments published in Science, however, researchers have found that the raven’s ability to plan ahead goes much further than simply catching food.
The first experiment trained the birds to use a tool to open a box and retrieve a food reward. They were then shown just the puzzle for around one hour, before it was removed from their enclosure. They were next presented with a range of tools, including the correct tool for the previous puzzle, and made to wait 15 minutes before the puzzle was given back. The birds were successful at identifying the correct tool, in anticipation of the puzzle being returned, 86 percent of the time.