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Observational learning and the raiding of food caches in ravens, Corvus corax: is it 'tactical' deception?
Author: Bugnyar, Thomas and Kotrschal, Kurt
Journal: Animal Behaviour
Volume: 64
Year: 2002
Pages: 185—195

Group-foraging ravens scatter-hoard when they are competing for food and, to some extent, also raid the caches made by others. We investigated the effects of observational spatial memory on individual caching and raiding tactics. With captive ravens, we found visual observation was essential for locating and raiding the caches of conspecifics. Both captive and free-ranging ravens, food cachers as well as potential cache raiders, responded to each other's presence. Cachers withdrew from conspecifics and most often placed their caches behind structures, obstructing the view of potential observers. Raiders watched inconspicuously and kept at a distance to cachers close to their cache sites. In response to the presence of potential raiders or because of their initial movements towards caches, the cachers frequently interrupted caching, changed cache sites, or recovered their food items. These results suggest that ravens, regardless of whether they act as cachers or raiders, are capable of withholding information about their intentions and, hence, manipulate the other bird's attention either to prevent or to achieve social-learning opportunities. Such interactions may qualify as [`]tactical' deception and may have created a considerable pressure selecting for social cognition in ravens. Copyright 2002 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.