Rook at this mess: French park trains crows to pick up litter

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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 , and , are considered to be “particularly intelligent” and in the right circumstances “like to communicate with humans and establish a relationship through play”, Villiers said.

Crows could teach us to take care of the environment, said the manager of the theme park in France. Photograph: Arco Images GmbH / Alamy/Alamy

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 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 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.


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Mark Jones

Sounds like a great idea except the cigarette butts part. There are still poisons left in the butts and the Rooks pick up with their beaks and use their tongues. Should we not be concerned about long term effects on these birds?

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

Being called a birdbrain is the highest Compliment

Sara Leonard

How about training people not to litter in the first place.

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

that would be far more difficult than training birds