Cool Crow Research

Posted on November 17, 2007  Comments (8)

photo of crow vending machine

Very cool project – A Vending Machine for Crows

The goal of this project is to create a device that will autonomously train crows. Initially we’re training them to deposit dropped coins they find on the ground in exchange for peanuts, but eventually we hope to be able to train them to search and rescue, or to collect garbage, or who knows!

This is the highest-risk segment of the machine’s operation. At this point coins alone are made available whenever the bird lands on the perch. However, should a bird peck or sweep coins off the tray and cause a coin to fall down the funnel, the device then produces some peanuts. This stage is designed to cement in the crows’ mind the relationship between coins going down the funnel and peanuts being made available.

Finally we shift the device into its intended, and long-term state of only providing peanuts when coins go down the funnel. Nothing is otherwise provided aside from coins scattered around the device at the beginning of the project.

Joshua Klein Thesis presentation definitely watch this! (the webcast takes like 30 seconds before the talk starts – it is worth the wait). Watch a video from the University of Ithaca site (with Dr. Kevin McGowan).

Other sites that also are mentioned as possible sites: Dr. Anne Clark, University of Binghamton (with a captive population of crows); Dr. Natalie Jeremijenko (seed podcast), Dr. Carolee Caffrey, Harvard and Dr. James Ha, University of Washington. Read the Paper by Joshua Klein about the plans for the experiment.

Related: The Engineer That Made Your Cat a PhotographerBackyard Wildlife: FoxAnts on Stilts for Science

8 Responses to “Cool Crow Research”

  1. Susan
    November 20th, 2007 @ 9:46 pm

    Hi John,

    Great blog. It is fun to see how ideas travel around the web and who can resist science like this? I’ll be checking back- Susan

  2. Torsten
    December 9th, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

    Always amazing what kind of inventions there are. Now it’s something for crows. And the crows are learning how to use this.

  3. CuriousCat: Backyard Wildlife: Birds
    May 4th, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

    The last few days a bird like this one has been chasing a crow in my yard (unfortunately I have not been able to get an action picture of that)…

  4. Colina Tallinn
    July 23rd, 2008 @ 7:48 pm

    Search and rescue sounds like a worthy endeavor indeed. I wonder how this experiment in training crows can be applied to search and rescue. If I were wounded on a mountainside, I would be grateful for help in any shape or form…including a crow!

  5. Curious Cat Science Blog » Bird Brain
    December 14th, 2008 @ 9:29 am

    “The crows’ success with the trap-table suggests that the crows were transferring their causal understanding to this novel problem by analogical reasoning…”

  6. Curious Cat Science Blog » Crows Can Recognize People
    July 28th, 2009 @ 7:38 am

    Crows can recognize people and remember them for years…

  7. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Mutualism – Inter-species Cooperation
    October 14th, 2009 @ 8:36 am

    “The shrimp need their guard goby. And the guard goby needs its shrimp…”

  8. Crows can Perform as Well as 7 to 10-year-olds on cause-and-effect Water Displacement Tasks » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    July 25th, 2014 @ 2:10 am

    “the [crows] can pass a modified test that so far only 7- to 10-year-old children have been able to complete successfully…”

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