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Old 02-01-2011, 03:59 PM   #1
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Default Super Bird Brains - The New Caledonian Crow

From http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/sc...=1&ref=science

"New Caledonian crows are renowned for their toolmaking skills. In the complexity, fluidity and sophistication of their tool use, their ability to manipulate and bird-handle sticks, leaves, wires, strings and any other natural or artificial object they can find into the perfect device for fishing out food, or fishing out second-, third- or higher-order tools, the crows have no peers in the nonhuman vivarium, and that includes such textbook dexterous smarties as elephants, macaques and chimpanzees.

...researchers want to know why it is that, of the 700 or so species of crows, ravens, rooks, jays and magpies that make up the world’s generally clever panoply of corvids, the New Caledonian crow became such an outlier, an avian savant, a YouTube top of the line.
“It’s a big puzzle,” said Russell D. Gray, head of the Auckland lab. “Why them? Why is this species on a small island in the Pacific able to not just use but to manufacture a variety of tools, and in a flexible rather than a rote or programmatic way? Why are they able to do at least as well as chimpanzees on experiments of cognition that show an understanding of the physical properties of the world and an ability to generalize from one problem to the next?”"
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