Animal Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 691–698 | Cite as

Short-term observational spatial memory in Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) and Ravens (Corvus corax)

  • Christelle Scheid
  • Thomas Bugnyar
Original Paper


Observational spatial memory (OSM) refers to the ability of remembering food caches made by other individuals, enabling observers to find and pilfer the others’ caches. Within birds, OSM has only been demonstrated in corvids, with more social species such as Mexican jays (Aphelocoma ultramarine) showing a higher accuracy of finding conspecific’ caches than less social species such as Clark’s nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana). However, socially dynamic corvids such as ravens (Corvus corax) are capable of sophisticated pilfering manoeuvres based on OSM. We here compared the performance of ravens and jackdaws (Corvus monedula) in a short-term OSM task. In contrast to ravens, jackdaws are socially cohesive but hardly cache and compete over food caches. Birds had to recover food pieces after watching a human experimenter hiding them in 2, 4 or 6 out of 10 possible locations. Results showed that for tests with two, four and six caches, ravens performed more accurately than expected by chance whereas jackdaws did not. Moreover, ravens made fewer re-visits to already inspected cache sites than jackdaws. These findings suggest that the development of observational spatial memory skills is linked with the species’ reliance on food caches rather than with a social life style per se.


Corvid Observational spatial memory Raven Jackdaw 



This work has received funding from the European Community’s Sixth Framework Program (NEST 012929) and from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF projects R31-B03, P16939-B03). Research at KLF is permanently supported by the ‘Cumberland Stiftung’ and by the ‘Verein der Förderer’. C. Scheid was supported by a studentship of the French Ministry of Research. We are grateful to F. and M. Bertrand and to B. Voelkl for their help concerning statistics; K. Kotrschal and R. Noë for their advices; A. Wilkinson, C. Schloegl, C. Schwab and D. Ujfalussy for their help and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. Nestlings were donated by the zoos München, Stralsund and Wuppertal. Permission to take nestlings from the wild was granted by the Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Umweltschutz und Raumordnung des Landes Brandenburg.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IPHC-DEPE, ULP, CNRSStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle Grünau and Deptartment of Neurobiology and CognitionUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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