torsdag 28 april 2016

Broad media interest

Our recent study on corvid cognition has recieved much attention from media during the last few days. Watch the interview with Can Kabadayi, PhD-student and one of the lead authors from our group: 

A  nice summary of the study can be found at Huffington post.


torsdag 21 april 2016

New paper on corvid cognition

Yesterday a new paper (Can Cabadayi et. al) from our group in collaboration with University of Oxford and Max Planck Institute for Ornithology was published in Royal Society Open Science

The study: "Ravens, New Caledonian crows and jackdaws parallel great apes in motor self-regulation despite smaller brains" provide evidence that crow birds share similar fundamental cognitive mechanisms with great apes.

Recently, MacLean et al. (MacLean et al. 2014 ) conducted a large-scale study involving 36 species, comparing motor self-regulation across taxa - concluding that absolute brain size predicts level of performance. The great apes were most successful, and only a few of the species tested were birds. Given birds' small brain size—in absolute terms—yet flexible behaviour, their motor self-regulation called for closer study.
As corvids exhibit some of the largest relative avian brain sizes—although small in absolute measure—as well as the most flexible cognition in the animal kingdom, we therefore tested ravens, New Caledonian crows and jackdaws in the so-called cylinder task.

The results showed that the performance of the crow birds was indistinguishable from that of great apes despite the much smaller brains, and that both absolute and relative brain volume to be a reliable predictor of performance within Aves.

Birds are dinousaurs

 A velociraptor skeleton downscaled to half it's size.

Today and yesterday saw the annual visit from the Biology deparment's course in Ecology of behaviour/ethology.
Since the course coincides with the breeding season and the students cannot work with the ravens,  the focus is rather on lectures and ongoing research. This time Ivo and Katarzyna presented their research after Mathias' introductury lecture on bird descent and cognition.

A replica of a Confuciusornis (the earliest known beaked bird) fossil.

A replica of a Tyrannosaurus' foot

Duvis shed some live input on the lecture.

Since the ravens are quite happy as long as nobody goes to close to the nest, the students also got a brief glimpse of some contemporary dinosours. None and Rickard fluffed up a bit, but not more than that.

The chicks are also clearly visible from the outside, but they look mostly like drooping tulips as they sleepily stick their heads in the air or hang over the edge of the nest.


måndag 18 april 2016

Unsuccessful breeding

Siden and Juno has been breeding successfully for three years in a row, raising between 3-5 chicks. However, this year something went wrong and in the middle of last week we understood that the chicks were dead. I had heard at least two chicks for a few days and the parents behaved normally, so we anticipate that there was something wrong with them. Siden and Juno immediately started to work with the nest interior, so maybe they will try a second time. But I can imagine it will take some time to produce new eggs and then it might be too late.

As the empty nest turned off all parental aggression  I decided to take advantage of the tranquility to do some weeding. Weeding might seem like an unnecessary thing to do in an outdoor aviary, but if not done - the weed totally takes over and reduces the ground area for the ravens who really like to spend much time digging and caching.

 Of course I got a lot of help, and Siden and Juno spent most of the time sitting on my back as I struggled with the long roots. 

None and Rickard are a bit more relaxed when I come in their aviary, despite a full nest, as long as I keep to the far end of the aviary. So I keep my part of the bargain which makes it possible for me to clean their tub without quarrel. Especially if I bring some goodies for their babies. So today I even dared some weeding around their bath tub.

Rickard's and None's chicks are now around 3 weeks old and there are five of them. Not three that I first thought. At some point there were even six live chicks, but we actually witnessed None carrying a dead chick from the nest and then fed the others with it.  But I guess five chicks are a handful, and in the wild the number of chicks that makes it to fledging probably are less than in captivity.


torsdag 7 april 2016

Hatching next door

Today it was the neighbour's turn. I heard the chirps even before I entered the aviary, and as I did, Juno flew closely past my head to tell me not to come too close. It is interesting how the defense mode is switched on the minute the chicks hatch - some days ago she readily came down to feed, sitting on my arm. This state lasts during the chicks' period in the nest, and some time after fledging, then the parents happily welcome us into their territory again.
Now six weeks of hard work begins; feeding, sheltering and keeping clean to make sure that as many chicks as possible reach fledging.


måndag 4 april 2016


Rickard's and None's chicks are now one week old, and so far I have seen three little heads already turning downy grey. The weather has been very mild for some time and I can imagine it getting quite warm on the nest. The ravens love bathing in almost any weather, except wind and rain, so when I changed the tubs today, None - mother-of-three - was the first to dive in.

In the adjacent aviary Embla and Tosta waited for their turn, and Embla made sure she would get in first.
Embla waiting for the tub to fill up.