(Mirror Daily, United States) – We thought crows wre smart because they used speeding vehicles to crack the nuts they gathered from trees and the red light as a quiet feeding opportunity. But recent interactions between researchers and the brown skua left them convinced that the Antarctic birds can distinguish between individuals.
While the idea that a bird can recognize different people is not new, the researchers were amazed that the Antarctic birds can distinguish between individuals only after a couple of interactions. There are people out there who need more than a few encounters to associate a name with a face.
Moreover, the pigeons you feed every day at lunchtime or the parrot you had since childhood may seem like they notice and acknowledge you, but they are used to human interaction. The Stercorarius antarcticus lives in one of the most remote places on Earth; it is not used to human presence, but it seems that the Antarctic bird can distinguish between individuals with great ease.
The researchers reached this conclusion after the birds started attacking them after a few encounters. The team approached the nesting grounds of seven couples and tried to film and study the eggs. After a couple of such instances, the brown skuas started attacking the scientists.
In order to see whether or not the birds recognized their clothes, some of the scientists changed their outfits. The flock still seemed keen on letting them know that they are not welcomed in the area anymore.
The next day the researchers repeated the experiment, only this time they shuffled the team. One member of the early expedition went in with another one who did not visit the nests before. And as they expected, even though they were wearing similar clothing and acting in the same manner, all of the seven pairs attacked the researcher that they recognized, leaving the new addition alone and unharmed.
The team eliminated the hypothesis that the birds were using their sense of smell to differentiate between the humans because the region is too cold and windy to help them to so. Also, it seemed like clothing didn’t matter, either, so the last possible interpretation is that the Antarctic birds can distinguish between individuals by looking at their facial features.
It seems that the researchers have two different theories in how the birds managed to do differentiate between different people. One is that the brown skuas are intelligent creatures, the other is that living so far off, they quickly learned to defend their nests from all human invaders.
The complete study can be found in this month’s edition of the Animal Cognition journal.
Image source: Wikimedia