Magpie intelligence

To: "'Robin Eckermann'" <>, <>
Subject: Magpie intelligence
From: "David Rosalky" <>
Date: Sat, 1 Feb 2014 21:15:10 +1100

Yes, I’ve seen that sort of behaviour which, while intelligent, is about retrieving desired food.


But there is something of a different nature about this event in my mind.  This action (if it indeed was an action with intent) seems to involve much higher level of cognitive perception:  a recognition of an action of salvation, association of a human with this outcome, trust in the human’s behaviour (inimical to the overriding sense of self-preservation), recognition of the need of a fellow bird, and an act of directing that bird to the saviour. 


In fact, the more I think about it, I find it hard to believe it was an intentional act.


I suppose there may have been special factors.  Eg the birds may have been partners so that helping its partner was in the first bird’s interest.  And the birds may have already developed a relationship of trust with the person  (I have magpies here that fly in or call as soon as they see me or my wife in the yard and sometimes we have to step over them to avoid walking on them – we don’t feed them).




PS  I think corvids and cracticines are in the same super-family which is a pretty big grouping.


From: Robin Eckermann [
Sent: Saturday, 1 February 2014 8:42 PM
To: David Rosalky;
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Magpie intelligence


At 08:16 PM 1/02/2014, David Rosalky wrote:

My son just emailed me the following message:

“I just listened to a report from the science show on radio national. A couple of guys found an injured magpie at their house with its leg wrapped in fishing line. They freed its leg and released it. Some time later, the magpie returned with a second magpie with an identical injury. Amazing! ”

Did anyone hear it?  It appears to be an example of a high degree of deductive logic in birds – or pure coincidence.

David Rosalky

BTW, there is a delightful video at showing a new Caledonian Crow using stones to raise the water level in a jar in order to get the floating worm. I believe these belong to the same broad family as Magpies!

Robin Eckermann

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