Most people who have had the experience of having pet animals in their houses have the gut feeling that the animals can "recognize" us. They seem to recognize our faces, our voices and our smell. One way or another, they respond to us differently from other people.
Actually, this is not just a gut feeling. Numerous studies have shown that domesticated animals, such as honey bees, chickens, pigeons, sheep, dogs, llamas, penguins, seals, rabbits, horses, lizards and octopuses, can recognize humans individually. The common thing among these animals is that they are exposed to an environment where they see humans and interact with humans every day. Then the question is, can the wild animals recognize people too?
Although there are many anecdotes that wild animals do so, experimental evidence is surprisingly scant. Only very recently, Northern mockingbirds and American crows have been shown to recognize humans who threatened their nests or captured them.
Well, one more species is added on the list, the Black-billed Magpie. Every spring, researchers from Seoul National University (SNU) and Ewha Womans University are conducting a routine, annual survey of the breeding success of a magpie population within the SNU campus. But something was weird in 2009. One of the crew, Mr. Won Young Lee, a PhD student who was always climbing up the nests and taking out the eggs or chicks for the survey, and also the first author of the paper being printed in the journal Animal Cognition, started to be followed and scolded by the owners of the nests. "I remember", Mr. Lee says, "when a magpie came down from a nest tree scolding at me. I was with a second researcher at that time, and I tried to fool the magpie by giving my cap to the other person. But this did not work! When I moved away the bird followed me rather than the fellow observer wearing my cap". The owners of the nests that were not accessed by him did not show any response to his presence. Based on this "accid
|Contact: SangJin Lee|
Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University