Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Magpies make decisions faster when humans look at them

Date:
June 7, 2013
Source:
Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University
Summary:
Researchers have found that wild birds appear to "think faster" when humans, and possibly predators in general, are directly looking at them.

Black billed magpies, such like this one named "Gobi," seem to think and take decisions faster when humans, and possibly predators in general, are directly looking at them.
Credit: Photo by P.G.Jablonski; PLOS ONE (Lee et al. 2013. "Direct Look from a Predator Shortens the Risk-assessment Time by Prey" DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064977

Researchers from the Seoul National University found that wild birds appear to "think faster" when humans, and possibly predators in general, are directly looking at them.

"We started this study from our experience" says Dr. Sang-im Lee, the leader of magpie research team and the first author of the paper. "For a long time we had this impression that somehow magpies know that we are watching them because they often fly away from us when we observe them. But when we don't observe them, we can pass them pretty close-by but they don't fly away!"

The finding that animals notice the gaze of humans is not new. Usually animals use gaze of the conspecifics in social contexts and therefore pet animals pay attention to the gaze of humans -- their social mates. Also in the case of predator and prey interactions it is well known that animals such like birds, lizards or deer move away or escape from humans at larger distances when people look directly at them. In these situations it was believed that animals react at larger distance and sooner because the gaze is an indicator to the prey that the predator "wants to catch it." Therefore, when a prey notices the gaze of a predator it moves away from the predator in order to increase safety. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that magpies on the campus of the Seoul National University also flew away at larger distances when humans were directly looking at them.

But this is not the most important finding of this research. When researchers, who were approaching foraging magpies, looked directly at the magpies, the magpies took the decisions faster regardless of whether the final decision was to return to foraging or to fly away and whether the stress or danger perceived by a magpie was low or high. But when the approaching pair of humans did not look at the magpies, the decision to escape or not was taken with a delay. In other words even if the magpies did not perceive the humans as dangerous they still took the decision faster (in this case decision to stay and continue foraging) when the humans were looking at them. This is consistent with the idea that the birds are able to extract more information for their quick decisions from people's faces and/or gaze direction regardless of what kind of information they get. Magpies have lived near humans for centuries or even millenia and such skills might have been important for their survival.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sang-im Lee, Soyun Hwang, Young-eun Joe, Hyun-kyung Cha, Gun-ho Joo, Hyeon-jeong Lee, Ji-won Kim, Piotr G. Jablonski. Direct Look from a Predator Shortens the Risk-Assessment Time by Prey. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (6): e64977 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064977

Cite This Page:

Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University. "Magpies make decisions faster when humans look at them." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130607131018.htm>.
Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University. (2013, June 7). Magpies make decisions faster when humans look at them. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130607131018.htm
Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University. "Magpies make decisions faster when humans look at them." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130607131018.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins