Feeds

Magpies hold funerals for fallen feathered friends

One for sorrow

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A University of Colorado scientist has claimed that magpies hold "funerals" for fallen friends, demonstrating that they're all a lot more touchy-feely than they might appear.

Dr Marc Bekoff observed four magpies alongside a fallen comrade, and recounted: "One approached the corpse, gently pecked at it, just as an elephant would nose the carcass of another elephant, and stepped back. Another magpie did the same thing."

"Next, one of the magpies flew off, brought back some grass and laid it by the corpse. Another magpie did the same. Then all four stood vigil for a few seconds and one by one flew off."

He suggests in the journal Emotion, Space and Society (payment required): "We can't know what they were actually thinking or feeling, but reading their action there's no reason not to believe these birds were saying a magpie farewell to their friend."

Publication of his findings prompted others to tell Bekoff they'd seen the same ritual in magpies, ravens and crows. Bekoff dismissed the idea that such observations were merely cases of anthropomorphism, and defended: "It's bad biology to argue against the existence of animal emotions."

Bekoff cited a further example of animal empathy among a herd of elephants in Kenya, where one cow elephant was having trouble keeping up with her comrades. He explained: "Despite her disability the rest of the herd walked for a while, stopped to look around and then waited for her to catch up. The only obvious conclusion we could see is the other elephants cared and so they adjusted their behaviour."

None of this will come as a surprise to regular Reg readers, who already know that sheep pine for absent friends and cows bear grudges. Neither bovines nor ovines have been observed to hold funeral rites, but we suspect there's probably not much time for such niceties down at the abattoir. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.