Magpies team up to outwit scientists, study says — Analysis

New research claims to show first ever evidence of cooperative ‘rescue’ observed in the birds

New research by scientists at the University of the Sunshine Coast shows that plans to monitor Australian magpies in order to conduct a study proved futile. The birds cooperated to get rid of the devices.

It is the first indication of co-operation. “rescue” observed within the animals, the researchers stated, as, within just ten minutes of fitting the final tracker, a female magpie was seen using her bill to remove a younger bird’s harness.

With the help of other flock members, many birds were released from their trackers hours later. The researchers reported that the devices were removed by another magpie, which was the case even for the largest bird.

“We don’t know if it was the same individual helping each other or if they shared duties, but we had never read about any other bird cooperating in this way to remove tracking devices,”Dominique Potvin was the lead researcher of this study.

Potvin also stated that “It is possible that what we have observed is the first documented case of rescue behavior in Australian magpies.”

“The birds needed to problem solve, possibly testing at pulling and snipping at different sections of the harness with their bill. They also needed to willingly help other individuals, and accept help,”This was the conclusion of the study.

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Initially, this study was designed to prove a new tracker harness which could be used to release and collect the birds. It had a weak point to allow it to be released when magnetized. This would result in the harness being dropped at the bird’s feeding station.

Scientists believed it would need a magnet, but scientists disagree. “really good scissors”To remove the trackers one bird was seen “snapping another bird’s harness at the only weak point,” suggesting it had identified the device’s vulnerability.

Although studies had previously demonstrated magpies as intelligent and social birds in the past, scientists were surprised at how fast they found a way for them to work together and get rid of the devices. Despite the study’s initial tracking aim failing, the team hope further research can be conducted to discover if the birds randomly discovered the flaw in the device or systematically worked at it until they found the key weak point.

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