Smarter magpies live in bigger groups

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Smarter magpies live in bigger groups


  Last updated February 8, 2018 at 11:05 am


If you see a large group of magpies, you can guarantee they’re pretty clever.

Researchers from have found that wild magpies who live in big groups are smarter than ones living in small groups, and that smarter females have more chicks.

They tested 14 groups of birds ranging from 3 to 12 members – 56 birds in total. The birds were wild but tagged with coloured bands, making them easily identifiable and trackable.

The scientists ran individualised intelligence tests by using gadgets like a transparent cylinder and foraging grids, using mozzarella cheese as a reward. They tested for inhibitory control, associative learning, reversal learning, and spatial memory. During each test they kept other birds at least 10 metres away, and considered the test order in their analysis. This way, they could be sure the birds weren’t learning from each other.

They also tested juvenile birds as they aged to observe how living in large groups contributes to cognitive development.  They suggest that variation in group size might generate differences in information processing demand.

This research was published in Springer Nature.


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