Feeds

Magpies hold funerals for fallen feathered friends

One for sorrow

The next step in data security

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.