Ravens can plan ahead, say researchers

Researchers in Sweden have found that ravens are even smarter than anybody thought, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

James Carlin | Jul 18, 2017

Researchers in Sweden have found that ravens are even smarter than anybody thought, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

The birds can plan ahead and delay gratification abilities so far seen only in great apes and humans aged four and older, according to the Smithsonian.

Ravens belong to the corvid family of birds, which also includes crows, jays, and magpies.

For the experiment, Mathias Osvath of Lund University raised a group of ravens for five years at his farm in Sweden, a report by The Washington Post said. He and his colleagues taught the birds to open a puzzle box by dropping an oblong stone into a tube. This unlocked a yummy morsel of dog kibble.

Then the researchers removed the puzzle box from the birds' sight. After an hour, they offered the ravens a tray filled with attractive objects, including the oblong stone that was the key to the puzzle box.

Although the birds could not know if the puzzle box with kibble treats would return, they chose the oblong stone from the tray 86 percent of the time.

"Say you're planning a trip to London, and you know how often it rains there. So you bring an umbrella, even though it's not raining now where you are," said Osvath, in the Post report. "That's what we are talking about here, planning based on past experience."

The ravens' planning abilities were equal to those of great apes in similar experiments and even outshone four-year-old human children, the researchers said.

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