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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 22.4 > Bird Brains

Bird Brains

Are Crows as Intelligent as Some Scientists Claim?

ARTICLE

MANY SCIENTIFICALLY INTERESTED PEOPLE HAVE SEEN them: films of different species of corvids that put objects in test tubes in order to raise the water surface to get at a floating piece of food. It looks as if the birds assemble an overview of the situation, contemplate how to best solve the problem, and then implement their solution. The experiments have been argued to constitute evidence that these birds can solve problems on about the same level as primates; they have even been compared to 5-7 year old children. But now new analyses from Stockholm University indicate that these assertions must be reconsidered.

The experiments are termed “Aesop’s fable” experiments, from the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop’s fable of a thirsty crow that finds a pitcher of water. By putting pebbles in the pitcher, the crow manages to raise the water level enough to drink. The moral of the story is that inventiveness and persistence will be rewarded.

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About Skeptic

CAMPUS CRAZINESS: THE WAR ON SCIENCE No Barriers to Inquiry; I Am Not a Racist, And So Are You: An Unauthorized Peek at the Great Shaming Taking Place at an Institution of Higher Learning Near You, and Other Fireside Tales; Radically Wrong in Berkeley; When Secularism Becomes a Religion: The Alt-Left, the Alt-Right, and Moral Righteousness; When Science Becomes the Enemy SPECIAL SECTION — BIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR Canine Cognition: Did dogs become smarter through domestication? An interview with Dr. Brian Hare; Bird Brains: Are crows as intelligent as some scientists claim?; What Biology Can Teach Us About Crime and Justice ARTICLES: Gary Taubes and the Case Against Sugar; From Camelot to Conspiracy: Memory, Myth, and the Death of JFK; Now Playing at a Cartesian Theater Near You: Dualism Returns COLUMNS: The SkepDoc: Diet Sodas: Are the Dangers In the Chemicals or the Headlines?, by Harriet Hall, M.D. JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Ghost Ships, by Daniel Loxton