Are owls as intelligent as crows

Spectrum neo

Birds are very underestimated when it comes to intelligence - even though common ravens and parrots are probably some of the smartest animals in the world. The bird expert Simon Bruslund from the Heidelberg Zoo reports on the amazing tricks ravens are capable of.

Simon Bruslund from Denmark, living in Neckargemünd, is a well-known bird expert. He has already worked at Loro Parque on Tenerife and was the zoological director of the Walsrode World Bird Park. His current place of work is the zoo in Heidelberg, where he runs the bird sanctuary.
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The raven wants to attract our attention: he jumps up and down, grabs a stick from the bottom of the cage and pushes it through the bars. He crows so loud that we have no choice but to watch him. At that moment, the zookeeper Simon Bruslund comes around the corner and his protégé begins to flutter around wildly. “He hopes something will fall off for him. That's why he's really excited. He does everything for food, ”explains the bird expert. Apparently the raven tried a trick with us that he has often used in school classes: “He makes all kinds of faxes and tries to look cute so that someone slips him food. He knows exactly how to use people for his own purposes. ”During guided tours, the zoo keeper often puts dog treats in front of the enclosure, which the bird is supposed to catch with a stick. Usually he cleverly uses the tool as an extension. But especially with children's groups, the demonstration usually doesn't work. Instead of grabbing the stick, the raven scratches itself, lies down or flutters around. “The children then think he is too stupid for that. But they underestimate the bird! ”In reality, he uses people to act out his personal laziness. Of course, it is much easier to get a visitor to stick the treat through the grate than it is to fish for it yourself with a stick. And with the children he quickly achieved success.

But ravens have even more tricks up their sleeves to find nourishment. For example, they throw nuts on the street and use the passing cars as nutcrackers. And not only that: They prefer zebra crossings and pedestrian traffic lights for this campaign, because the cars have to stop here regularly so that the ravens can safely pick up their treats.

How do you measure intelligence in birds?

In an interview, Simon Bruslund tells the knowledge writers many interesting facts about ravens.
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This is how the birds prove how intelligent they are. The research is still in its infancy with its findings, but scientists assume that corvids are among the smartest animals on our planet. Finding out how smart a bird is is not that easy. On the one hand, you have to be able to repeat every experiment - otherwise the result could also have been a coincidence. If a single living being performs exceptionally well, that is not proof that the whole species is clever. On the other hand, the question is: what does intelligent actually mean? “An important characteristic is that an animal comes up with new ideas individually,” says Simon Bruslund. “In intelligence tests, for example, you offer a bird various objects and observe how it handles them.” But the results are not always reliable. An animal that has adapted to a habitat in which it does not need any aids shows in the Usually not interested in things that are not needed. As a result, it is quickly labeled as unintelligent - often wrongly.

Nevertheless, there are methods that at least allow conclusions to be drawn about intelligence. One of them is the so-called mirror test: Here you dab a point on the test person's body and place them in front of a mirror. Many monkeys and toddlers do not recognize their own reflection but mistake it for someone else. Unlike the raven: he tries to get rid of the point as quickly as possible. Simon Bruslund explains: “Ordinary magpies do one of the best in this test. That means these birds, shot by the thousands every year, recognize themselves! When I think about it, I get goose bumps. "

Many people misjudge birds. Here are some of the most common prejudices:

"Stupid goose"
Geese have a high level of swarm intelligence and find, for example, distant winter quarters.

"Raven Parents"
Ravens are very loving parents and look after their offspring for a long time.

"Clever owl"
Although owls appear wise with their large heads, they are arguably not extraordinarily smart.

In addition to the skills that scientists test with their tests, social intelligence also counts. Some species of birds form a lifelong bond. It can take a while for a bird to find the right partner for life. Zoos in particular have to try out who suits each other. It is not yet clear whether the two ravens at Heidelberg Zoo will one day make a dream couple. “They like each other, but maybe not so much that they breed together,” says Simon Bruslund. If there is no spark between the two, the keepers also go to other zoos to look for the right counterpart. "But that's a game of chance, because the ravens are very picky."

This shows that the birds have a distinctive personality. The different characters are also evident in everyday life: some want a lot of attention, others prefer to occupy themselves with themselves. Some are very playful: in the wild, ravens often chase after a buzzard for fun. “You can compare it to people who do bungee jumping. They are simply looking for a thrill, ”reports Simon Bruslund.

No boredom in the zoo

The zoo keepers ensure that the ravens in the zoo get excited. These clean the cage every day and thus violate the territory. A conflict can quickly arise: the bird tries to drive away the intruder. When he leaves again, he feels strengthened in his behavior. “We mostly try to avoid confrontations. But for some birds it is also an interesting experience to defend their territory. "

This is one of many ways to make everyday life more interesting, but it is not enough on its own. Because ravens need new challenges every day. As a carer it is important to be creative! On the one hand, they hide the food in cardboard boxes so that the birds can work out their meal. On the other hand, the food itself is also very varied. The ravens have to ask themselves: how do I deal with it? Is that even edible? So every day will be exciting.

The common raven tries all sorts of tricks to get our attention. To do this, he even plays a bat and hangs himself upside down on a branch.
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The visitors are just as interesting for the ravens. People who pay special attention to them also get to see some tricks in return. So we could watch how the raven sometimes just hung by the beak, sometimes upside down on a branch and crowed goodbye. We, too, were certainly not an everyday attraction for him!

The common raven, lat .: corvus corax, is probably one of the smartest animals in the world. In the wild it mainly eats carrion, but also small mammals, fruit and birds. On average it reaches an age of 20-30 years. It is not a migratory bird, so it stays in its home even in winter. Its enemies include eagle owls, martens and humans. Typical features are its deep black plumage, large head and wedge-shaped tail. It is on average 60 centimeters tall, 1.2 kilograms and has
a wingspan of 1.2 meters.

This article was written at the knowledge writer workshop on "Animal Intelligence" in August 2014 at the Academy for Innovative Education and Management (aim) in Heibronn. The report was written by Eileen B., Larissa H. and Lara K.

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