Cambridge University mask experiment finds jackdaws recognise faces

Researcher using mask to test whether jackdaws recognise individual faces Image copyright Elsa Loissel
Image caption The birds responded to researchers' use of different masks, proving they can recognise faces

Researchers have found wild jackdaws are able to recognise individual human faces after an experiment using masks.

A team from the University of Cambridge wore one mask to approach the birds' nest boxes and weigh the chicks, and a different mask to simply walk past.

They found they were quicker to return to their nest when they recognised the mask used for chick weighing.

The team said it provided "great evidence of the flexible cognitive abilities" of the birds.

"It also suggests that being able to recognise individual predators and the levels of threat they pose may be more important for guarding chicks than responding to the direction of the predator's gaze," said Gabrielle Davidson of the university's psychology department.

Image copyright Elsa Loissel
Image caption Researchers used two different masks to test the jackdaws' recognition abilities

Previous studies have found crows, magpies and mockingbirds can also recognise individual faces.

Jackdaws are the only member of the corvidae bird family to use nest boxes, meaning they provide a rare opportunity for researchers to study how birds respond to humans in the wild.

Researchers at Cambridge have been studying the jackdaws, who live just outside the city centre in Madingley, since 2010.

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