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Ravens Seen To Communicate With Gestures

POCKING, Germany, Dec. 6 (UPI) — Ravens may be even smarter than previously thought, using gestures to communicate among themselves, a European study suggests.

The birds commonly use gestures such as showing and offering objects to each other including moss, stones and twigs, which puts them in rare company as the only non-primate confirmed as using deictic, or contextual, gestures to communicate, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany said.

Simone Pika and Thomas Bugnyar observed ravens in Austria for three years, witnessing social interactions between raven pairs such as using their beaks to show objects to other ravens, mainly members of the opposite sex, they said.

The objects were clearly being presented so a partner would notice them, they said, which often led to interaction between the birds such as manipulating the object together.

Researchers in Alaska say they’ve seen similar signs of intelligence in that state’s ravens.

Stacia Backensto studied ravens from 2004 to 2006 as part of her graduate thesis at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but found trapping them extremely difficult after the first summer, as even ravens she had never encountered seemed to know who she was and what she was doing.

“We think they learned from other ravens who I was and they’d react aggressively to me. That, to me, was a pretty obvious sign that I was dealing with a really smart animal,” she told the Fairbanks News-Miner.

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