The scientific community is in a flap over a new study that shows that crows are just as bright as children under eight.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge presented the crows and children between the ages of four and ten with a version of a riddle commonly referred to as “Aesop’s fable”.
This tells of crows that learnt to quench their thirst by dropping pebbles in a partially filled jug of water to make the level rise.
The team gave the crows and children a similar task.
They were given a range of objects they could drop into a tube of water to push a token or treat to the top.
Amazingly, the crows were able to solve the puzzle after about five tries – the same number of goes children up to the age of eight took.
However, children at around that age and older out-performed the feathery creatures and solved the problem on their first try.
According to Lucy Cheke, first author of the publication, the main purpose of the study was to see whether birds and children learn in the same way.
She says that, based on the results, it seems they don't: the birds were unable to learn when something apparently impossible happened, while children were able to learn about what was happening even if they had no idea how it was happening.
"It is children's job to learn about the world," Cheke said in a press release, "and they can't do that when they are limited by a preconceived idea about what is or is not possible. For a child, if it works, it works."
The full report is published 25 July in the open access journal PLoS ONE.
See the video below for more evidence of crow cleverness.