Get smart curated videos delivered to your inbox.   SUBSCRIBE
The Kid Should See This

“Are magpies scary or scary smart?” An experiment tests their proactive nature

Watch more with these video collections:

Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) are known across Australia for being clever, mischievous, and vigilant in ways that can be aggressive. These street-smart songbirds can recognize dozens of human faces, are territorial, and thrive across “nearly 90% of mainland Australia” thanks to their willingness to try new things in search of food.

In this ABC Science Catalyst video, a clip from The Secret Lives Of Our Urban Birds, the magpie’s proactive nature is tested with an experiment in which magpies pick a yellow or blue cap to find food.

a magpie up close
Nature journalist Dr. Ann Jones talks with ecologist Dr. Farley Connelly, who explains:

“So we want to know, you can they make an association and so we want to see if it can associate food with a colour and then can it repeat that, and repeat that, and repeat that. And so we are going for can it do it 10 times in a row. Yes, so that way we know it is consistent and that it is learning it, versus just happenstance.”

birds exploring
Once the magpie associates food with the yellow cap, Farley tests how quickly it responds to change by placing the food under the blue cap. How quickly can this curious urban bird adapt?

yellow cap
Learn more about magpies with The Australian Museum.
Watch Litter for food: Teaching wild magpies to recycle.

Plus: The ultimate problem solvers? A wild crow solves a puzzle in 8 parts.

This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.

Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.

🌈 Watch these videos next...

Why does Australia have hundreds of bright pink lakes?

Rion Nakaya

Why are there so many pigeons?

Rion Nakaya

Where do ibis actually live?

Rion Nakaya

What is Infinity? A mathematician explains in this Elevator Pitch

Rion Nakaya

Western jackdaws pluck fur from wild deer in Richmond Park, London

Rion Nakaya

Vancouver Island Hummingbirds

Rion Nakaya

Tico & the Man: A parrot sings with his guitar-playing human

Rion Nakaya

Three visual tricks that can mislead your brain

Rion Nakaya

The ultimate problem solvers? A wild crow solves a puzzle in 8 parts

Rion Nakaya