Study claims Antartic birds can recognise individuals
Washington D.C., Mar. 26 : Just like crows, magpies and mockingbirds, brown skuas living in Antarctica can also recognise individual people.
Researcher Yeong-Deok Han said that he had to defend himself against the skuas' attack, adding the birds flew over him and tried to hit him when he was with other researchers. Even when he changed his field clothes, they followed him. The birds seemed to know him no matter what he wore.
The research team performed a series of experiments. The researchers checked the nests once a week to monitor the breeding status and the skuas attacked at closer distances with repeated visits of the researchers.
Lead researcher Dr. Won Young Lee said it is amazing that brown skuas, which evolved and lived in human-free habitats, recognised individual humans just after three or four visits. It seems they have very high levels of cognitive abilities.
The cognitive abilities of Antarctic animals have not been well studied before. Brown skuas have been recorded to steal food from other birds or even steal breast milk of nursing elephant seals. According to the researchers, this opportunistic feeding habit may make them cleverer with time.
The research is published in the journal Animal Cognition.