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More Evidence Birds Can Count: Where’d that other mealworm go?

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Researchers are eagerly tricking wild New Zealand robins, but it’s FOR SCIENCE! Watch as this box with a sliding trick drawer helps Alexis Garland and Jason Low at Victoria University of Wellington observe the behavior of a robin after it’s offered two mealworms. The experiment was set up like this:

After clearly showing a robin that she was dropping two mealworms in a circular well in the box, Dr. Garland would slide in the drawer. It covered the two worms with an identical-looking circular well containing only one worm.

When the researcher moved away and the robin flew down and lifted off a cover, it would find only one worm. The robins pecked intensely at the box, behavior they didn’t show if they found the two worms they were expecting.

So here’s the big question:

If birds and mammals can count, does this mean some kind of mathematical ability goes back to a common ancestor before the dinosaurs? Or did two separate paths lead to the same abilities?

Read more about the research at The New York Times: One Mealworm, Two mealworms: More Evidence Birds Can Count.

bird counting / searching for a mealworm it thought should be there
Related watching, this incredibly smart bird: a wild crow solves a complicated eight-part puzzle to get to its food.

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