A critically endangered species of crow from Hawaii displays remarkable expertise in using small sticks to wrangle a meal, joining a small and elite group of animals that use tools. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: A tasty treat is inside a small hole in this tree branch. Even though its bill is too short and its feet are too big to squeeze through a tiny opening - this crow will get to its dinner - how? It's incredibly smart and knows how to make and use tools…that's according to research published in the journal Nature. Native to Hawaii, the Alala crow is now only the second species of corvid known to have the uncanny ability. Until now 'tool skills' was the exclusive domain of the New Caledonian crow, a distant cousin of the Alala. Extinct in the wild and highly endangered, every member of the Alala species left on Earth currently resides in captivity. Researchers from the San Diego Zoo teamed up with scientists from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland to conduct a series of controlled experiments to test the Alala's tool using prowess. The study found that the vast majority of the birds were - quote - "incredibly skilled and accomplished tool users." The researchers hope the findings draw attention to conservation efforts for one of the smartest birds on the planet. The zoo plan to release the Alala's back into the wild later this year.