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Eurasian magpie is self-aware and can use tools (video example)

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Magpies are in the corvid family of birds which includes: crows, ravens, rocks, jackdaws, jays, treepies, choughs and nutcrackers. They are known for their intelligence. They might be the most intelligent animal after the primates. They are described as large, big-brained birds. They live in intimate social groups of related and unrelated individuals. They are capable of using tools, recognising human faces and apparently even understanding physics. Some researchers think that they rival the primates for their intelligence. And in the video, we see a magpie using a tool to get a bit of food out of a jar.

very Smart

Posted by Art empire on Sunday, June 26, 2022

A study suggested that parenting helps to shape bigger brains. And young crows and jays often remain with their parents for up to 4 years. This is the equivalent of about 20 years in human terms. During this time, they become more skilled at dealing with mentally challenging tasks.

The parented years of the corvids is similar to that of humans and humans have an extended childhood until independence which is apparently rare among animals. It is believed, therefore, that parental tutelage is one factor in why corvids are so smart.

Another study found that crows might have the ability to be self-aware which would be highly unusual. There is a test for self-awareness called the “mirror self-recognition test”. It tests an animal’s ability of self-recognition. The Eurasian magpie is the first non-mammal to have passed the mirror test. Researchers applied a small coloured sticker to the throat of five Eurasian magpies. The stickers could only be seen in a mirror. When they saw themselves in the mirror, they scratched at their throats which was a clear indication that they recognise the image in the mirror as their own. Well-known animals that have failed the mirror test are cats and dogs.

It is said that they can “ponder the contents of their own mind”. This is a manifestation of higher intelligence. Crows have 1.5 billion neurons which is equivalent to the number possessed by monkey species. Another study suggested that their complex cognition “depends on a toolkit consisting of causal reasoning, flexibility, imagination and prospection”.

And in a further study published on February 2, 2017, they decided that “corvids display intelligent behaviour previously ascribed only to primates”. They found that the performance of magpies in terms of their intelligence “was equivalent to that of monkeys and better than that of pigeons”.

The magpie demonstrated “partial concept learning, outperforming both monkeys and pigeons”. And the corvids with “primitive neural architecture” have evolved to equal primates “in full concept learning and even to outperform them [on certain tests]”.


Magpie. Picture in the public domain.

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