[extropy-chat] high tech birds

spike spike66 at comcast.net
Tue Oct 17 04:29:31 UTC 2006

The quality of posts has been excellent lately, thanks everyone.

A few months ago I read on ExI about ravens placing nuts on roadways so that
cars would crack them, which would be a special example of tool use in
beasts; special because we know when cars and pavement became common, so we
can observe how this technology spreads.

Touring in northern California and southern Oregon this past weekend, I
observed this behavior twice.  Just as I was heading for an on-ramp to
interstate 5 in Yreka, a raven swooped down, placed a hickory nut on the
road ahead and flew off.  I recognized the intent, so I drifted over and
cracked the nut.  I watched in my mirror as the bird came back and devoured
the pieces.  About an hour later, on highway 96 west of Seiad Valley, I saw
that 8 to 10 ravens had placed a number of nuts on the roadway and were
standing along side the road waiting for cars to provide lunch.

The questions raised by these observations are many.  Are we seeing the
behavior arise independently in different populations?  Are they teaching
each other the tricks?  In the second observation, I would guess they
learned from watching one bird.  The two observations were essentially
different behaviors, where the first bird worked alone and the second as a
group.  The first bird worked near an overpass where there was a lot of
traffic; the second group out in the country where the rolling nutcrackers
would be sparse.

I came up with an idea.  There should be a website where those of us who
watch beasts can report our observations.  I would be interested to learn if
there are geographical regions where ravens have not learned to place nuts
on the roadways, or if some years in the future they figure out how that is
done, and how the behavior spreads, and does the behavior ever disappear
after having been observed in an area.  We might be able to map the spread
of technology in birds.  Since ravens are indigenous to all over North
America, Europe and Asia, it would make an interesting test case.

Until I get that set up, how many of those here have seen ravens place nuts
on a road?  Where?  When?  This past weekend is the first time I saw that
myself, and I watch birds early and often.  



More information about the extropy-chat mailing list