Why ravens play with small plastic details and other garbage?

Could you explain how this behavior was formed by evolution for birds-scavengers?


Ravens and other corvids are among the most intelligent birds. Of note, crows and ravens are known for their ability to solve problems that require tool use, memory, and delayed rewards (patience).

Many animals play, and ravens and crows are no exception. (A study entirely on raven nestling play.) The evolutionary purpose of play activity is thought to improve coordination/dexterity, provide exercise, strengthen muscles (such as wing-flapping by young birds that have yet to fledge), and develop social skills.

As to what type of objects ravens find most interesting to play with, I'm unsure of a definitive answer. Some birds, particularly the satin bowerbird, even collect colorful objects. My hypothesis is that the choice of object is likely due to simple availability (discarded) and conspicuous nature (color). In other words, ravens more easily find such objects because they are colorful, which in turn are frequently human-manufactured.

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  • $\begingroup$ What is specific in "forest scavengers life style" that pushed them to become most intelligent birds? $\endgroup$ – Roman Pokrovskij Dec 14 '18 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ Quite a while ago I read "Mind of the Raven" by Bernd Heinrich, an expert in ravens. If I recall correctly, he suggests that ravens will essentially investigate any object they haven't seen before. Then after learning about these objects, they don't find them as interesting anymore. $\endgroup$ – Eff Dec 16 '18 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Eff An excellent book! Indeed chapter 24 is dedicated to play. I recall the same; I think it may also have been implied that investigating objects could contribute to finding new food sources. $\endgroup$ – JYelton Dec 16 '18 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ @JYelton "I think it may also have been implied that investigating objects could contribute to finding new food sources." That's exactly what I remember being suggested. $\endgroup$ – Eff Dec 16 '18 at 17:38

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