Jays, members of the corvid family, are often referred to as “feathered apes” due to their remarkable cognitive abilities. They have the ability to hide, or ‘cache’, their food for later, and this behavior has led researchers to explore the link between self-control and intelligence in these birds.
In a recent study, researchers found that Eurasian jays can pass a version of the ‘marshmallow test,’ and those with the greatest self-control also score the highest on intelligence tests. This is the first evidence of a link between self-control and intelligence in birds, and it builds on previous research that has shown similar links in humans, chimpanzees, and cuttlefish.
The Clever Corvids: Uncovering the Secrets of the Eurasian Jay
The Eurasian Jay, also known as the Garrulus glandarius, is a bird that stands out for its intelligence and unique behaviors.
The jay is a member of the corvid family, rival non-human primates in their cognitive abilities. These birds are known for their remarkable problem-solving skills, their ability to plan for the future and their complex social systems.
Eurasian Jays are found throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa, they are known for their striking plumage, which can vary from blue and white to pinkish-brown. They are also known for their distinctive calls, which are often described as harsh and noisy.
One of the most fascinating behaviors of the Eurasian Jay is their ability to hide, or “cache” food for later. This behavior, called caching, is an example of their ability to plan for the future. Caching allows jays to store food for times when food is scarce and it also allows them to protect their food from other animals or birds.
Jays have a highly developed spatial memory and they can remember the location of thousands of caches over the course of several months. They have also been observed to manipulate the caching behavior of other animals, by stealing and relocating caches made by other birds, and even watching the caching behavior of other animals and remembering it for future reference.
In addition to their caching behavior, jays also have a complex social system. They live in family groups, and within these groups, they have a strict hierarchy. The dominant birds get first pick of the food, and they also have the right to mate with the dominant females.
Jays have also been observed to have a wide range of vocalizations, each of which serves a different purpose. They use different calls to communicate with members of their family group, to warn of predators, and to attract a mate.
Self-control, the ability to resist temptation in favor of a better but delayed reward, is a vital skill that underpins effective decision-making and future planning. The researchers believe that jays’ need to delay immediate gratification in order to plan for future meals may have driven the evolution of self-control in these birds.
To test the self-control of ten Eurasian jays, the researchers designed an experiment inspired by the 1972 Stanford Marshmallow test in which children were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately, or two if they waited for a period of time. Instead of marshmallows, the jays were presented with mealworms, bread, and cheese. Mealworms are a common favorite, while bread and cheese come in second, but individuals vary in their preference for one over the other.
The results of the study showed that the jays that were able to wait for a better reward (i.e., two pieces of food instead of one) also scored higher on intelligence tests. This suggests that there is a link between self-control and intelligence in jays, and that this link may have evolved independently several times across distantly related animal groups.
Of all the corvids, jays in particular are vulnerable to having their caches stolen by other birds. Their self-control enables them to wait for the right moment to hide their food without being seen or heard. This study highlights the importance of self-control in the survival and success of these birds, and it suggests that the link between self-control and intelligence may be a key factor in the evolution of intelligent behavior in animals.
In conclusion, jays are fascinating birds that possess remarkable cognitive abilities. They have the ability to hide their food for later, and this behavior has led researchers to explore the link between self-control and intelligence in these birds. This study provides new insight into the remarkable cognitive abilities of jays and other corvids, and it highlights the importance of self-control in the survival and success of these birds.