Jackdaws Identify “Dangerous” from “Safe” Humans | The Institute for Creation Research
Jackdaws Identify “Dangerous” from “Safe” Humans
Don’t think that humans have a monopoly on “social distancing”—because even birds are prudent in physical distancing, depending on the contingent hazards that they perceive nearby.1,2 And birds, like humans, warn one another about the dangers they see, and how best to avoid them.2-4

Consider Europe’s crow-like bird the jackdaw that can identify which humans are “safe” and which humans are “dangerous.”

Jackdaws can identify “dangerous” humans from listening to each other’s warning calls, scientists say. The highly social birds will also remember that person if they come near their nests again, according to researchers from the University of Exeter [in Devon, England].2

Recent research shows how these birds deal with danger.

Here, we tested whether wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula) use social learning to recognize dangerous people. Using a within-subjects design, we presented breeding jackdaws with an unfamiliar person near their nest, combined with conspecific alarm calls [warning that this human was dangerous]. Subjects that heard alarm calls showed a heightened fear response in subsequent encounters with the person compared to a control group, reducing their latency to return to the nest. This study provides important evidence that animals use social learning to assess the level of risk posed by individual humans.3

Specifically, the jackdaws were experimentally observed on how they reacted to jackdaw signals,3 giving information about approaching humans—namely, which humans were potential threats that needed to be quickly avoided.2

Audio recordings were played, to signal if a new human was “safe” or a threat.

In the study, a person unknown to the wild jackdaws approached their nest. At the same time scientists played a recording of a warning call (threatening) or “contact calls” (non-threatening). The next time jackdaws saw this same person, the birds that had previously heard the warning call were defensive and returned to their nests more than twice as quickly on average.2

In short, the experimental observations show that wild jackdaws can remember which humans are nice (or not) to them. This shows that wild jackdaws report this evaluative information among themselves.

Not only do the birds promptly take appropriate defensive actions, they recall later which humans they were warned to avoid.2,3

These birds don’t rely upon evolutionary “good luck” to avoid dangerous people. These jackdaws are given and utilize wisdom, with a little help from their friends.

God Himself made these communicative birds smart and mutually helpful.5

References
1. Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Comparing Starling Murmurations to Social Distancing. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org April 16, 2020, accessed April 30, 2020. See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2019. God Crafted Creatures to Communicate. Acts & Facts. 48 (11):21.
2. Lee, V. E., N. Régli, et al. 2019. Social Learning about Dangerous People by Wild Jackdaws. Royal Society Open Science. 6:191031.
3. Watson, P. 2019. Jackdaws can Identify ‘Dangerous’ Humans, Scientists Say. Independent. Posted on Independent.co.uk September 24, 2020, accessed April 30, 2020.
4. Remembering who is nice, or is not, is a trait not limited to corvid birds. Human children, even without direct help from adults, are especially quick to learn and likely to recall such experiences. Abernathy, A., and T. Abernathy. 1998. Bud and Me, the True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys. Irving, TX: Dove Creek Press, 40-41, 44-45, 66-68, 86. Likewise, even bumblebees recognize specific humans, with some memory as to who is a problem requiring some kind of defensive attention. Sherwin, F. Bee Brains Aren't Pea Brains. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org July 11, 2019, accessed April 30, 2020. See also Ropes, M. 2000. Mary Jones and her Bible. Tain, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 134-137. Bees specifically recognized Mary Jones as harmless and never stung her.
5. Proverbs 30:24-28. Johnson, J. J. S. 2017. Clever Creatures: ‘Wise from Receiving Wisdom’. Acts & Facts. 46(3):21. See also Burke, M. 2016. Only Clever Observers Realize Just How Intelligent Fish Crows Are. Chesapeake Bay Journal. 26(8):39.

*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
The Latest
NEWS
ICR’s 2021 Science Expedition Update–Dinosaur Fossils
A team of 11 people from the Institute for Creation Research is currently traveling on a multistate science expedition to dig up fossils, conduct field...

NEWS
ICR’s 2021 Science Expedition Update
A team of 11 people from the Institute for Creation Research is currently traveling on a multistate science expedition to dig up fossils, conduct field...

NEWS
ICR’s 2021 Science Expedition Begins!
The Institute for Creation Research launched its 2021 multistate science expedition last week as a nine-member team left the ICR headquarters in Dallas,...

NEWS
Inside September 2021 Acts & Facts
Why does ICR focus on scientific research? How could paleontologists mistake a lizard fossil for a dinosaur? Is animal death before the Fall theologically...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Beauty by Design
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
Defend Your Faith with ICR
Have you ever heard a pastor question the historical nature of Genesis? “The days of creation weren’t really 24 hours long. The Bible is...

ACTS & FACTS
Animal Death Before the Fall?
Both the Old and New Testaments teach that death entered the world when Adam ate the forbidden fruit (e.g., Genesis 2:17 and Romans 5:12). Since fossils...

APOLOGETICS
Transmitting Truth in a Modern Pagan World
We share the world with modern pagans who worship the sun—or idolize an imagined primordial Big Bang—so we need to be truth witnesses unto...

ACTS & FACTS
Waco Mammoth National Monument
Hunters in the 1970s discovered mammoth bones exposed in sediments near the confluence of the Bosque and Brazos Rivers in north central Texas. They...

ACTS & FACTS
Three Hurdles for Evolution
Sure, finch beaks shift their shapes, but does that mean nature invented beaks and birds from stardust? Evolution’s proponents often speak as...