odd bird behaviour

To: "'Williams, Roger'" <>, "'canberrabirds'" <>
Subject: odd bird behaviour
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2012 17:44:49 +1000
Hi Roger,
Actually this sort of thing happens a lot. It is likely a combination of two behaviours: caching or storing presumed items of food and mistaking things that are not food for food. In terms of ravens, it often happens with golf balls, which we can understand as they likely think are eggs. Not surprising that they would not have learned (in evolutionary time) that golf balls are not eggs. That they would not have learned that stones are not eggs is curious. Likely there is a limit to what can be committed to instinct. I suggest the benefit of collecting and storing eggs for food is presumably outweighed by the small disadvantage of time wasted playing or practising on stones. That the stones are round/elliptical is relevant. Or it may relate to that some crow species bury acorns for later use and this is still a carry over of that behaviour.
-----Original Message-----
From: Williams, Roger [
Sent: Friday, 27 April 2012 4:59 PM
To: canberrabirds
Subject: [canberrabirds] odd bird behaviour

This is an email that a friend of mine sent me, I was wondering if some body has seen this sort of behaviour before,this was observed in Canberra.

A shiny blue black raven was walking about the gravel path under casuarina trees. It was preoccupied with searching for and picking up small (25-40mm) round/elliptical quartz pebbles (which were in the minority, with most of the gravel being sharp blue stone). It then dug a hole in the gravel with its beak and buried the stone in the hole, finally covering it with casuarina needles! I watched the bird do this three times (it dug a new hole each time, not too far from where it found the stone), before I decided I really should get back to work. It didn’t seem to mind me squatting on the ground close to it watching this bizarre activity.




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