Ravens Use Gestures To Find Partners


Ravens gesture with their beaks and wings to express interest or strengthen relationships.

Ravens, like humans, just want to have fun. They do their survival thing and when the time is right, they seek out companionship for a good time. But how do they go about attracting the opposite sex? According to a new study published on November 29 in the journal Nature Communications, Ravens use their beaks and wings to gesture and hold up objects. Yes, it seems very desperate, but for the Ravens, it works.

This study marks the first time researchers have observed such gestures in the wild (Primates aside) and it suggests that we may have underestimated the Raven’s intelligence. The birds use these gestures to gauge the interest of a potential partner, or to strengthen a relationship that already exists.

Scientists now believe that this behavior may be the starting point for the use of symbols and human language. Think about how small children will begin by gesturing to a toy or pointing at things as the child develops. Deictic gestures like these were once thought to be exclusive to primates, but this study contradicts that notion and opens up a world of possibilities. We may find that they gesture much more than we thought and in ways that we don’t yet understand.

The study was a two-year investigation into the behavior of individually marked members of a wild raven community in Cumberland Wildpark in Grünau, Austria. During that time they also learned that ravens will use their beaks to point to objects.

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