Some corvids, like the Eurasian jay, are natural magicians. They are capable of deceiving other birds, like how a magician deceives his audience through magic tricks. An example of this is how these jays pretend to store their food in one spot, and then secretly hide them in another place. And because they think like magicians, it also seems that jays can see through the deception of a human magician.
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Garcia-Pelegrin is a professional magician as well as a cognitive scientist. As the video below shows, he used three standard tricks – known as palm transfer, French drop, and fast pass – to test six Eurasian jays’ capacity to determine which hand held a worm. The birds got to eat the worm if their first guess was right. Garcia-Pelegrin also performed various other hand movements for comparison.
The jays usually saw through the French drop or the palm transfer, choosing the correct hand 70 and 60 percent of the time respectively. The fast pass was a different matter, with the jays getting just 26 percent of trials right.
The similarities between the way jays hide food from those who would steal it and the way magicians deceive the public are striking. Not only do jays and their fellow corvids; “Cache food items discretely in among multiple bluff caching events,” the paper notes, they also; “Conceal items in their throat pouch, akin to a magician’s use of false pockets, and will manipulate food items within their beak similar to sleight-of-hand techniques performed by magicians.”
More details about this over at IFL Science.
(Image Credit: Elias Garcia-Pelegrin/ IFL Science)