New Study Proves Crows Understand the Concept of Numbers

Crows may have bird brains but they're not dummies, according to a new study by a Japanese research team. Test results published in the October issue of the international journal Animal Behaviour indicate crows are able to understand the concept of numbers and can recognize symbols representing quantities.

The researchers were led by Shoei Sugita, professor of animal morphology at Utsunomiya University, and the test subjects consisted of eight Jungle Crows – larger, bigger-beaked cousins of American Crows.

Sugita's team investigated whether the crows could find food hidden in opaque containers, the lids of which were marked with different symbols denoting quantity.

After being shown two sets of symbols per test, the crows eventually were able to make a beeline for the hidden food with a 70 percent rate of success.

Further tests involving both numeric and non-numeric clues saw the crows selecting the food-filled container up to 90 percent of time in 19 out of 20 tests.

“We want to reveal more about the unknown intelligence of crows,” explained Professor Sugita. Known around campus as “the crow professor” by virtue of his extensive knowledge of the birds, Sugita (right) believes humans can coexist with crows more harmoniously once we learn what they're capable of – and not capable of.

The research could lead to better ways of controlling crow populations in Japan's larger cities, where large flocks of noisy, aggressive crows tear into garbage bags with impunity and have been known to snatch food right out of people's hands. Figuring out how crows count could help city authorities find ways to cut their numbers. (via Mainichi Daily News

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