Published: 25 August 2021 at 15:45
British Science Festival event will focus on the incredible world of corvids
Dr Claudia Wascher will head into the wild (of Chelmsford) during the British Science Festival to share her remarkable research into crows and ravens, two of the smartest birds around.
Dr Wascher, a behavioural ecologist at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), will be Talking With Birds in Bell Meadow Park in Chelmsford on Tuesday, 7 September, in an event focusing on how these intelligent birds socialise and communicate.
Join Claudia for her British Science Festival event on 7 September. Book free tickets online.
Both crows and ravens, which along with rooks, jackdaws, magpies and jays are part of the corvid family of birds, display complex behaviours such as “delayed gratification” – the ability to wait for a better offer than the one in front of them – and they are also aware of when they are being treated unfairly.
Dr Wascher carried out the first ever study looking at how these birds behave when they are treated unequally.
When asked to exchange a token for either their favourite food (cheese) or a less exciting option (grapes), the crows and ravens stopped cooperating if they saw other birds receive a reward without exchanging their token or if they saw another bird receive cheese at the same time as they were given a grape.
Dr Wascher believes that this understanding of fairness and cooperation has helped corvids evolve into highly sociable birds. Some corvids such as jackdaws live in large groups, while crows typically live in family units. And Dr Wascher has also found that the size of their family group has a direct impact on their health.
A study published in 2019 discovered that more sociable crows, living in larger groups, are generally healthier birds. Rather than large social groups increasing stress levels for the individuals, as is typically thought, the results of Dr Wascher’s six-year study confirmed her belief that crows enjoy being sociable and are happier, and therefore healthier, in larger groups.
Dr Wascher, Associate Professor of Biology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:
The British Science Festival 2021 is organised by the British Science Association, in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). Dr Wascher’s Talking With Birds event will take place in Bell Meadow Park in Chelmsford on Tuesday, 7 September (1.30pm). To book a free ticket, visit https://britishsciencefestival.seetickets.com/event/talking-with-birds/bell-meadow-park/1986285