Crows capable of creating tools to dig up grubs and falcons that recognise the sound of gunshots have topped the first IQ table for birds.

The survey of 2,000 observations by ornithologists showed that some birds display imaginative behaviour to rival that of great apes and humans.



Among the examples, collected by Dr Louis Lefebvre, was a story of war-zone vultures that waited by a minefield for animals to be blown up. Their macabre behaviour was spotted during the civil war in Zimbabwe by a border guard.



Dr Lefebvre, of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said: “They would actually perch on the barbed wire and wait for the minefields to give them chopped antelope.”



Certain breeds of hawk have also used such associative behaviour. Attracted by the noise of gunshots, the ferruginous hawk, native to North America, preys on prairie dogs left behind by hunters.



The most skilled tool users, according to the report, were New Caledonian crows, which fashioned specially shaped implements out of leaves to catch insects.



There were also numerous sightings of fly-fishing herons, which caught insects and laid them, lure-like, on the surface of a stream to attract fish, retrieving them for another try if nothing took the bait.



Gulls were cited as having creative feeding methods. They frequently dropped shells on to rocks to break them – and they had even been spotted doing the same with small rabbits.



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