New Caledonian crows keep 'valuable' hooked tools safer than basic non-hooked tools

Barbara C. Klump*, James St Clair, Christian Rutz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The temporary storage and re-use of tools can significantly enhance foraging efficiency. New Caledonian crows in one of our study populations use two types of stick tools – hooked and non-hooked – which differ in raw material, manufacture costs, and foraging performance. Using a large sample of wild-caught, temporarily captive New Caledonian crows, we investigated experimentally whether individuals prefer one tool type over the other when given a choice and whether they take better care of their preferred tools between successive episodes of use, safely storing them underfoot or in nearby holes. Crows strongly preferred hooked stick tools made from Desmanthus virgatus stems over non-hooked stick tools. Importantly, this preference was also reflected in subsequent tool-handling behaviour, with subjects keeping hooked stick tools safe more often than non-hooked stick tools sourced from leaf litter. These results suggest that crows ‘value’ hooked stick tools, which are both costlier to procure and more efficient to use, more than non-hooked stick tools. Results from a series of control treatments suggested that crows altered their tool ‘safekeeping’ behaviour in response to a combination of factors, including tool type and raw material. To our knowledge, our study is the first to use safekeeping behaviour as a proxy for assessing how non-human animals value different tool types, establishing a novel paradigm for productive cross-taxonomic comparisons.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64829
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2021


  • Corvid
  • Corvus moneduloides
  • Extractive foraging
  • Optimal foraging
  • Tool manufacture
  • Tool use
  • Utility


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