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TOOL-USING BIRDS



Judy Molnar compiled a list of tool-using instances in living birds..

> black-breasted vulture and Egyptian vulture (to open eggs), 
> long-tailed tailorbird (spider silk used as thread), 
> satin bowerbird (uses fibrous material held in its beak to apply color to
> its bower), Galapagos woodpecker (uses long cactus spines to poke into
> crevices for spiders or insects), 
> brown-headed nuthatches (use of scale of bark to help pry under pine bark
> for food), double-crested cormorant (use of its own feather to apply oil
> from preen gland to other feathers), 
> green heron (use of piece of bread to bait fish nearer), and 
> a captive blue jay (using paper from the bottom of its cage to brush food
> on the outside of its cage within reach).

I'm not saying that Judy intended this to be a totally complete list (a somewhat
daunting undertaking), but she did forget what may be the ultimate case of tool
use in birds - that exhibited by New Caledonian crows. These birds make several
different types of tools - including cutting instruments and probes - which they
fashion from plant stems. What is particularly remarkable is that the crows
actually carry these tools around with them. Such behaviour is very rare even
among tool users - it is known in the Gombe chimps and in sea otters (the latter
present a somewhat different case however, as they also use their tools - heavy
'anvil' stones - to provide themselves with negative buoyancy when diving).

The pioneering work on tool use in New Caledonian crows, incidentally, was done
by our own Ron Orenstein.
 
> Borderline tool use would be the birds that use hard rocks as anvils to
> smash hard-shelled food against in order to open it.  I believe there is
> an anvil bird in Europe that does this with snails. 

Mistle thrush. 

This is my last email ever - so long folks and thanks for everything. Dino-l has
been a great place to visit, and I hope you'll all do your best to preserve its
integrity and sense of purpose. My warmest thanks to Mickey Rowe who does so
much to help us out, and who enabled me to make friends with some wonderful
people, including himself. You've done a great job Mickey.

"If you only knew the _power_ of the Dark Side!"

Bye!

DARREN NAISH