Effects of Group Size on Approach to Novel Objects in Ravens (Corvus corax)


Mareike Stöwe, Konrad Lorenz Research Station, Grünau 11, A-4645 Austria.
E-mail: m_stoewe@hotmail.com


Neophobia may constrain explorative behaviour, learning and innovation, while social context may facilitate approach to novel objects and acceptance of novel food. We examined the effects of neophobia on the exploration of novel objects in relation to social context in ravens (Corvus corax). Ravens are suitable subjects for studying effects of social context, as they are highly neophobic scavengers that recruit conspecifics to food. We tested two groups of six and 11 hand-raised birds in three conditions: single-bird, in dyadic combinations and sibling sub-groups of three to six birds. Contrary to expectation, individuals of both groups were quicker to approach novel objects when tested alone than when tested with conspecifics. However, they spent more time close to and manipulating the novel objects in the social conditions (dyadic and group) than when being alone. We discuss the possibility that the higher latencies of dyads and groups to approach novel objects may reflect a ‘negotiation’ process in a ‘war of attrition’ between the individuals over risk-taking.