New Caledonian crows, which are native to New Caledonia, an island hundreds of miles off the Eastern coast of Australia, are known to be smart. Years ago, one of them, a crow named Betty, was spotted making a hook out of a twig in order to dig out some food from a log in a laboratory.
Was Betty particularly smart, or did New Caledonian crows do this all the time? Scientists weren’t sure until recently, when they confirmed that, in the wild, the crows make hooks to get food, even in instances when they don’t need to, according to the BBC.
“This crow is widely accepted to be one of the most intelligent birds on Earth,” Atlas Obscura wrote last year. “Very rare for any animal, it can make tools out of materials it’s never seen before and would likely never see in the wild, like bending metal wire into shapes to retrieve food, and it’s also capable of using tools to retrieve other tools.”
The birds, in other words, are crafting tools spontaneously. They are the only non-primate species able to both create new tools and uses for the tools, and also to teach their peers how to use them.
In 2002, Betty’s original tool was the first time such behavior had been observed in the animal kingdom, though the latest study, published in Open Science, suggests the crows been doing it for a long time in the wild as well. The researchers observed the New Caledonian crows “snapping thin branches off of the shrubs, holding the twigs down with a foot, then bending the end into a hook—just as Betty had done with the wire,” according to the BBC.
Which means that humans aren’t the only animals willing to do almost anything just to get some food.