Corvids

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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