31/05/2016 - 13:26:28
Urban crows, ravens and magpies are less afraid of litter than their country cousins, according to a new study.
The research shows that they are more likely to show fear in relation to unfamiliar objects than other birds.
But if they and other bird species have previously encountered similar objects they are able to overcome some of their fear.
Researchers at Exeter University measured levels of fear of new objects in birds across urban and rural habitats.
They compared members of the crow family, which are known to be behaviourally flexible and innovative, with other bird species found in urban areas.
Their responses to different types of objects were recorded and the birds’ hesitancy to approach food when different types of objects were nearby was compared to their behaviour when food was presented alone.
Members of the crow family were more neophobic – afraid of new objects – than other birds but all birds were less fearful if the objects involved were similar to something they may have encountered before.
The researchers found that urban birds were less hesitant in approaching litter.
Dr Alex Thornton, who co-authored the study, said: “As humans alter habitats around the world, animals’ responses to novelty can dictate whether they perish or thrive.