Tool Time

Look, ma! No hands! I mean wings!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and on the tool-using habits of New Caledonian crows.

Sure, various animals use tools, but we’re the only ones with toolboxes. So other species have to find creative ways of keeping their implements.
Take New Caledonian crows. They hold sticks in their beaks to root out prey from cavities. The trouble is, once they get the prey out, they have to put the stick down to eat. And what if they’re up in a tree and drop the stick? They then they have to take time to go down and get it. What a pain!

Now, researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland say the crows have figured out how to hold on to their tools: They trap their sticks underfoot or prop them up in nearby holes. Clever!

Turns out the propping-in-holes strategy is especially useful when the crows are in trees or going for harder-to-handle prey.

Still frustrating? Only having a flathead stick when they really need a Phillips number two. Ah well.