Antarctic Mockingbirds Recognize Individual Humans, Says New Study

Posted: Mar 28 2016, 6:51am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Antarctic Mockingbirds Recognize Individual Humans, Says New Study
Brown skuas in Antarctica, when they recognized the intruders, showed aggressive behaviors such as yelling, following and kicking on the head of the intruders. Credit: Yeong-Deok Han
  • Birds of the South Pole can Identify Specific Human Beings

A surprising find shows that certain birds of the south pole can identify human beings easily.

There have been tales of crows, magpies and mockingbirds that can easily tell one human from another. Since these avian species live among human communities, they automatically learn to differentiate one individual from another.

However, whether animals living in far-off places show similar characteristics is another question altogether. South Korean researchers closely observed brown skuas that were extant in the frigid continent of Antarctica.

These curious birds were easily able to pinpoint people who came close to their nests to note down facts regarding their eggs and baby chicks.

One student who had done his PhD spoke of how he had to defend himself against a skua which attacked him with an anger and fury seldom seen in a bird before.

While he was with other members of his team, the skua hovered above his head and tried to peck at him with sharp its beak. Despite changing into field clothes, this man was constantly attacked by skuas. They seemed to recognize him via some strange method of cognition.

A range of experiments were carried out by the experts. They looked into the skuas’ nests once a week in order to note down the breeding rates of these birds.

The skuas meanwhile started attacking at closer and closer distances as each observation was made close to their nests. In order to check whether the skuas recognized the indivuduals, two people were sent on a visit close to the skuas’ nests.

One was a member of the research team who had repeatedly been checking up on the nests. The other one was a neutral subject who had never been close to the nests at all.

As these two blokes began walking in opposite directions from the nests, the skuas followed and attacked the familiar figure. They left the other one alone.

This proves without a shadow of a doubt that these intelligent birds can easily differentiate between human beings. It is an amazing fact that brown skuas, which live in habitats where there are very few human beings, are able to tell one individual apart from another.

This familiarity increased exponentially after three or four visits by teams of researchers into the skuas’ home territory. These birds have a high degree of cognition.

The thinking abilities of Antarctic animals is a subject that has not been studied before. Brown skuas are crafty creatures that have been known to pilfer scraps of food from other avians species.

They even steal the breast milk of elephant seals while the seals are suckling their young. The skuas seem to have developed a discriminatory ability in regard to human beings over a short period of time.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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