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A Crow That Makes Tools

Clever birds, those crows!
© J.R. Lisiak View Large

A crow named Betty learned how to take a straight piece of wire and bend one end into a hook. She then used the hooked end to haul a tiny bucket of meat from the bottom of a long tube. A postage stamp was issued in honor of this New Caledonian Crow. Watch a video of Betty - we've provided a link below. Other crows solved even more complex problems!

Have you seen a bird do something clever? Drop a line to us!

Full Transcript



A Crow That Makes Tools

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Someone hammering and sawing]

When it comes to making and using tools, we humans are the experts. [Chimpanzee calls] Chimpanzees sometimes employ simple tools, too, like sticks for probing for food. 

But it appears that chimpanzees may share second place with the New Caledonian Crow! These birds are known for using twig-like implements to feed themselves. Their "utensils" include special probes the birds clip from plant leaves with their beaks. 

[New Caledonian Crow calls]

A few years ago, scientists were astonished to see what a crow they’d named Betty could do with simple pieces of wire. Taking a straight piece of wire, Betty quickly bent one end into a hook and then used the hooked end to haul up a tiny bucket of meat from the bottom of a long tube. And it was no accident: Tested again, the clever crow repeatedly bent wires into hooks, using varied techniques.

But now, there's more. According to, New Zealand scientists studying New Caledonian crows have found they can "use three different tools in succession to gain a food treat." Almost stranger still, one bird spent nearly two full minutes simply studying the problem – and then completed the task the first time, without error.

I'm Michael Stein.

[New Caledonian Crow calls]


New Caledonian Crow calls and ambient recorded and provided by M. Stewart,

Misc audio by Kessler Productions.

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to   August 2016/2019   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# toolmaking-01-2008-08-10    toolmaking-01b

Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell, Free Press, 2012.

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