Animal Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 231–241 | Cite as

Do common ravens (Corvus corax) rely on human or conspecific gaze cues to detect hidden food?

  • Christian Schloegl
  • Kurt Kotrschal
  • Thomas Bugnyar
Original Paper


The ability of non-human animals to use experimenter-given cues in object-choice tasks has recently gained interest. In such experiments, the location of hidden food is indicated by an experimenter, e.g. by gazing, pointing or touching. Whereas dogs apparently outperform all other species so far tested, apes and monkeys have problems in using such cues. Since only mammalian species have been tested, information is lacking about the evolutionary origin of these abilities. We here present the first data on object-choice tasks conducted with an avian species, the common raven. Ravens are highly competitive scavengers, possessing sophisticated cognitive skills in protecting their food caches and pilfering others’ caches. We conducted three experiments, exploring (i) which kind of cues ravens use for choosing a certain object, (ii) whether ravens use humans’ gaze for detecting hidden food and (iii) whether ravens would find hidden food in the presence of an informed conspecific who potentially provides gaze cues. Our results indicate that ravens reliably respond to humans’ touching of an object, but they hardly use point and gaze cues for their choices. Likewise, they do not perform above chance level in the presence of an informed conspecific. These findings mirror those obtained for primates and suggest that, although ravens may be aware of the gaze direction of humans and conspecifics, they apparently do not rely on this information to detect hidden food.


Object-choice Gaze Conspecific Common Raven Corvus corax 



The Herzog v. Cumberland Game Park and the “Verein der Förderer KLF” provided permanent support. This project was funded by FWF projects R31-B03 (TB) and P16939-B03 (KK) and CS was supported by a DAAD-Doktorandenstipendium. We are grateful for the help of Christine Schwab, Gregory Kohn and Matthias-Claudio Loretto. We thank two anonymous referees for valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. CS would like to thank especially Dietrich von Holst for his support. We thank Paul Sömmer for his invaluable help while obtaining ravens from the wild and the zoos in Wuppertal and München for providing raven chicks. The experiments comply with the laws of Austria.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Schloegl
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kurt Kotrschal
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas Bugnyar
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Konrad Lorenz–ForschungsstelleGrünau im AlmtalAustria
  2. 2.Department of Behavioural BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.Department of Animal PhysiologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  4. 4.School of PsychologyUniversity of St. AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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