What Doesn’t Separate Us From Animals 5

A new study described in The New York Times found that ravens can recognize the voices of old friends after years of separation. Current Biology reports that a group of birds lived together for three years, then were separated for three years. Researchers recorded the calls of some of the separated birds towards the end of the three-year separation (during which time their calls may have changed) and played them to the other birds, who responded with friendly calls.

The birds’ friendly response demonstrated that they recognized their friends, because they responded differently to birds they didn’t like. Lead researcher Markus Böckle of the University of Vienna explained that when ravens answer calls from others they don’t like, they use deeper voices. The birds could also distinguish birds they did not know.

Ravens have friends and foes and remember them for years. Yet one more characteristic that does not distinguish humans from animals.

 Photo credit: Sergey Yeliseev

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3 thoughts on “What Doesn’t Separate Us From Animals 5

  1. BLAP says:

    Just watched a portion of the series “Wild Russia” where the various animals that survive in Siberia are shown. Ravens were mentioned and in addition to what you have written above ravens do a lot of “horseplay”. They were shown frolicking in the snow–rolling around, lying on their backs with their legs in the air and just generally playing–as kids do in the snow.

  2. silver price says:

    In a book that demonstrates the rewards of caring and careful observation of the natural world, Heinrich (Ravens in Winter, etc.), a noted biologist, Guggenheim fellow and National Book Award nominee (for Bumblebee Economics, 1979), explores the question of raven intelligence through observation, experiment and personal experience. Although he has raised many ravens through the years (beginning with a tame pair that shared his apartment at UCLA in the 1960s), Heinrich focuses much of his attention on four nestlings he adopted from the Maine woods near his home. As he describes tending to the demanding babies, chopping up roadkill, cleaning up after them and enduring their noisy calls for food, readers will marvel at how much Heinrich knows and at how much joy he derives from acquiring that knowledge. As the birds mature, Heinrich details how these and other ravens feed, nest, mate, play and establish a society with clear hierarchical levels. At its best, his writing is distinguished by infectious enthusiasm, a lighthearted style and often lyrical descriptions of the natural world. His powers of observation are impressive and his descriptionsAof how a raven puffs its feathers in a dominance display, of how a female calls for food from her mate, of the pecking order at a carcassAare formidably precise. Toward the end of the book, Heinrich addresses the question implied by the title: To what degree can ravens be said to think? His answer: “I suspect that the great gulf or discontinuity that exists between us and all other animals is… ultimately less a matter of consciousness than of culture.” Illustrations. Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

  3. [...] study comes on the heels of one finding that ravens can recognize the voices of friends and foes even after years of [...]

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