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
Inside June 2021 Acts & Facts
How do the Everglades illustrate Bible-affirming biology? Why do marine sponges inspire engineers? What can we learn about God’s providence from...

NEWS
Two Excuses for Human Evolution Confusion
Public school textbooks assert that apes and humans emerged from an ape-like animal, whereas Genesis 1 says that God created humans and the different animal...

DAYS OF PRAISE DEVOTIONALS
Summer 2021
...

ACTS & FACTS
Coral Reef
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
The Legacy and Faith of a Godly Father
Good fathers serve an essential role in the family, and it’s surely fitting that we express our love and gratitude on Father’s Day. After...

APOLOGETICS
Even Seaweed Is Proof of God's Providence
Tidewater-tossed seaweeds display God’s providence.1,2 Hidden in plain view, tidewater seaweeds are spectacular exhibits of Christ’s...

ACTS & FACTS
What It Takes to Make a Cell: A Review of The Stairway to Life
Rare is the science book that can hold even an average reader’s attention. But The Stairway to Life does just that. Coauthored by biochemist Laura...

ACTS & FACTS
Does Radioisotope Dating Prove an Old Earth?
Tim Clarey, Ph.D., and Vernon R. Cupps, Ph.D.* When most people think about radioisotope dating, they think of carbon-14 (C-14), or radiocarbon...

ACTS & FACTS
The Everglades: Two Biology Basics the Bible Got Right
Brian Thomas, Ph.D., and Gary Parker, Ed.D.* Imagine a river 50 miles wide and 100 miles long but only inches deep. Its slow flow is hidden...

ACTS & FACTS
Marine Sponges Inspire
The oceans are alive with God’s diverse and amazing creatures. Scripture tells us “God created great whales, and every living creature that...