Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Possible tool use by an Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)

TitlePossible tool use by an Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsMcCormick, J
JournalNotornis
Volume54
Issue2
Pagination116-117
Type of Articleshort note
Abstract

[First paragraphs ...]
Members of the parvorder Corvida, including the Australian magpie Gymnorhina tibicen, have a relatively high level of innovative behaviour amongst birds (Timmermans et al. 2000; Lefebvre et al. 2004). An example of this behaviour is tool use in Corvus spp. (Hunt 1996; Caffrey 2000). Although Australian magpies (magpies hereafter) are known to manipulate objects in behaviour such as play (Pellis 1981ab; Kaplan 2004) they have not been reported to use tools. Here, I report a possible case of tool use by an adult magpie.

From 2004 to 2006, I observed a resident group of magpies around the Stardome Observatory in One Tree Hill Domain, Auckland, New Zealand. The Observatory is located on the southwestern slope of the 48 ha park that surrounds the extinct volcanic cone of Maungakiekie, or One Tree Hill. The vegetation consists of mostly grazed pasture amongst native and introduced trees. Public can access the park by either roads or walking tracks. Members of the magpie family are not banded, but the behaviour of the birds that I have observed for 2 years suggests that they consist of the same breeding pair and their offspring. For example, the adult pair is somewhat habituated to human presence and forage around the office window sills of the observatory, sometimes even flying onto them. Breeding pairs of magpie are generally sedentary and live on permanent territories (Kaplan 2004), which is consistent with my observations. The resident pair produced 2 successful broods between 2004 and 2006.

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