Six crows trained to pick up cigarette ends and rubbish will be put to work next week at a French historical theme park, according to its president.
“The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean” but also to show that “nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment”, said Nicolas de Villiers of the Puy du Fou park, in the western Vendee region.
Rooks, a member of the crow family of birds that also includes the carrion crow, jackdaw and raven, are considered to be “particularly intelligent” and in the right circumstances “like to communicate with humans and establish a relationship through play”, Villiers said.
The birds will be encouraged to spruce up the park through the use of a small box that delivers a nugget of bird food each time the rook deposits a cigarette end or small piece of rubbish.
The crow family is not the only one that might have decent litter-picking skills – Australian magpies have been found to understand what other birds are saying to each other.
Research published in May in the journal Animal Behaviour says the wily magpie has learned the meanings of different calls by the noisy miner and essentially eavesdrops to find out which predators are near.
Noisy miners – a small, native honeyeater – have different warning calls for ground-based and aerial predators. By playing both kinds of recording to a series of wild magpies, researchers observed the magpies raising their beaks to the sky, or dropping their heads to the ground.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 11 Aug 2018.