Animals

At the Haidlhof Research Station we are currently housing  Kea (Nestor notabilis), Corvids (Corvus corax and Corvus coronne) and domestic pigs (Sus scrofa dometicus). They are considered to be intelligent in interaction with others (social cognition) and in problem solving (technical cognition). Unlike in humans, cognitive ability and intelligence in animals cannot be measured with verbal scales. Instead a variety of methods are used, e.g. all kind of learning tasks, problem solving tasks, and responses to novelty. 

 

Kea

The kea (Nestor notabilis) is an endemic parrot species found in alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. About 50 cm long, it is mostly olive-green with a brilliant orange under its wings and has a large, narrow, curved, grey-brown upper beak. Kea are known for their intelligence and curiosity, both vital to their survival in a harsh mountain invironment. At Haidlhof, a group of 22 individuals live together in a huge, extensively furnished aviary to support the communal life of these birds, and allow for individual birds to be tested in separate compartments. here, two touchscreens, both connected to a computer and an automated feeder and a sound proof chamber equipped with loudspeakers, allow for the investigation of perception and learning process in kea. 

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Kune Kune

Underestimated domestic pig?

The kune kune is a small breed of domestic pig from New Zealand. They are fairly small pigs with short legs, hairy with a rotund body and a blunt snout. Unique to this breed are the piri piri (small lobes) on the lower jaw. They appear in many coulours, e.g. black, brown, ginger and all coulours mixed. The kune kune require a natural, challenging and varied surrounding. Like all pigs they are very social animals. They live communally, learn from one another, imitate and are thus capable of acting strategically. Scientists systematically observe the behaviour of the current 40 individuals living at the Haidlhof Research Station and conduct controlled experiments on their intelligence. In addition, the welfare and the stress load of pigs are investigated.

 

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Common Raven

The raven: a primate of the sky?

Our main corvid model system is the common raven (Corvus corax), which is the largest songbirds with a circumpolar distribution in the Northern hemisphere. They are omnivorous with a preference for meat and they are highly opportunistic: their diet may vary widely with location and season. Since 2010, we also work with the related carrion crow (Corvus corone) and hooded crow (Corvus corone cornix) - two subspecies with hybridization zone exactly around Vienna. Like ravens, crows are feeding generalists and territorial breeders. Most of the captive birds at the Haidlhof Research Station are very tame, they all know their name and are highly motivated to work in our behavioural experiments. We use a mix of biological and psychological approaches and techniques, depending on the research questions. For our current projects on cooperation, for instance, we apply match-controlled observations, choice experiments and non-invasive hormone sampling via feces and saliva. For our research line on social knowledge and 'politics', we combine radio- and GPS tracking (with the free ranging ravens at the KLF research site at Grünau im Almtal), social network and kinship analyses with acoustical playback experiments and operant learning paradigms on touch screen computers. And for the research on information transmission, we use social learning and group diffusion paradigms, personality tests, video demonstration and operant problem solving tasks.

 

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