20 January 2011

Raven Intelligence

Image by David Hofmann

Ravens can toboggan, ride other animals and spy on their enemies.  Their life as cadgers stealing prey from wolves, eagles and bears has made them outstandingly intelligent.

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But intelligence is,from a biological view, laborious and costly. Those who think make mistakes. The question is: Why has evolution made ravens so smart?. Why don't they have the luxury of just doing the right thing automatically?.



Unlikely Mates
Unlikely Mates by Keith Williams


"The raven always needs to consider the question of what is going through the minds of the larger beasts whose food it is stealing."

Ravenologist Heinrich says: "The right thing hardly exists for ravens." The birds lead an extremely changeful life. In the wild, they live mostly off carrion slain by larger predators. Their survival depends on whether or not they reach the scene of the slaughter in time to grab whatever is there -- usually in the presence of the predator.



It's difficult to imagine a more precarious situation. Wolves, bears and foxes are easily angered when a pesky animal wants to eat their food. One casual snap of the jaws, and things are over for the raven. The bird needs to be able to assess just how far it can go at any moment. It always needs to consider the question of what is going through the minds of the larger beasts whose food it is stealing.

Manfred Dworschak, Clever Ravens



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