As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Antarctic Birds Recognize Human Intruders [VIDEO]

Antarctica seabirds act aggressively when they recognize a human approaching their nest. Previously, this talent was thought to be unique to high-IQ birds such as crows and magpies.

By Samantha Mathewson | Mar 25, 2016 03:23 PM EDT

Crows, magpies and mockingbirds have a reputation for being able to recognize a familiar face, but new research suggests brown skuas living in Antarctica can too. What's remarkable is that these remote birds can recognize individual humans after only a few interactions. 

This discovery was made by a team of researchers from South Korea who were monitoring the progress of breeding skuas.

The brown skuas, Stercorarius antarcticus, frequently attacked researchers checking their nests to count their eggs and nestlings. Some of the scientists noticed they were being attacked at greater distances each day, as if the birds were keener to the aims of the individuals.

"I had to defend myself against the skuas' attack," said Yeong-Deok Han, a Ph.D. student at Inha University. "When I was with other researchers, the birds flew over me and tried to hit me. Even when I changed my field clothes, they followed me. The birds seemed to know me no matter what I wear."

Researchers would check the birds' nests once a week to monitor their breeding status. To test the skuas' awareness and recognition skills, researchers had pairs of people walk in various directions, both away and toward skua nests. Each pair consisted of a scientist who had frequently visited the bird's nest - the intruder - and a neutral human who had never conducted field tests.

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