Cautious crows: Neophobia in wild Torresian crows (Corvus orru) compared with three other corvoids in suburban Australia (#156)
Corvids (Family: Corvidae), the crows and ravens, a clade of some 120 species widespread throughout much of the world, have attracted the interest of researchers due to their impressive cognitive abilities. Research on corvid cognition has been dominated by studies of a small number of species and of captive birds. Corvids are notoriously neophobic, a trait that increases the difficulty of undertaking such research. As part of an investigation of cognition in a relatively unstudied Australian species, we investigated neophobia in free-ranging Torresian crow (Corvus orru). Torresian crows, like corvid species worldwide, have thrived in urban environments, a habitat shared with a number of other corvoid (corvid relatives such as magpies, butcherbirds and currawongs) species. While these species have successfully colonised urban areas, the extent to which neophobia is present is not known. This study empirically tested the extent to which neophobia was exhibited in wild urban crows by measuring the delaying effect of a novel object to attaining food and any changes in neophobic behaviours displayed. This was compared to several corvoid species that inhabit similar niches. We confirmed that crows are significantly wary of a novel object, displaying more neophobic behaviours and taking longer to attain the food. Crows were also significantly more neophobic in both measures than the three other corvoids studied. However, the individual variation in crow behaviours when exposed to a novel object was extensive. This variation may be attributed to differing behavioural syndromes between individuals, or different experiences with novel objects or humans in the bird’s past.