We all knew that crows are intelligent and resourceful creatures, but this new research with New Caledonian crows really takes the biscuit:
The new study, published today in Scientific Reports, shows that these birds can create long-reaching tools out of short combinable parts – an astonishing mental feat. Assemblage of different components into novel functional and manoeuvrable tools has, until now, only been observed in apes, and anthropologists regard early human compound tool manufacture as a significant step in brain evolution. Children take several years before creating novel tools, probably because it requires anticipating properties of as yet unseen objects. Such anticipation, or planning, is usually interpreted as involving creative mental modelling and executive functions.
The study demonstrates that this species of crow possesses highly flexible abilities that allow them to solve complex problems involving anticipation of the properties of objects they have never seen.
The link contains some amazing (but poorly-lit) videos.