Crows, magpies and mockingbirds have a reputation for being able to recognize a familiar face, but new research suggests brown skuas living in
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
. "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." Inha
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.