Western Blue Jays Hold a Funeral for Dead Bird

Humans are not the only animal that mourn their dead, but this is quite surprising: when a Western Scrub Jay bird encounters a dead bird, it will call out to others to stop foraging and, well, for lack of better words, attend a bird funeral.

The revelation comes from a study by Teresa Iglesias and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, US. They conducted experiments, placing a series of objects into residential back yards and observing how western scrub jays in the area reacted.

The objects included different coloured pieces of wood, dead jays, as well as mounted, stuffed jays and great horned owls, simulating the presence of live jays and predators. [...] The jays reacted indifferently to the wooden objects.

But when they spied a dead bird, they started making alarm calls, warning others long distances away.

The jays then gathered around the dead body, forming large cacophonous aggregations. The calls they made, known as "zeeps", "scolds" and "zeep-scolds", encouraged new jays to attend to the dead.

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This makes sense. Jays belong to the corvidae family, a family that contains ravens and crows, considered by many to be the most intelligent of bird families. Many corvids have complex social activities, so it is interesting that scientists are seeing this species displaying an activity most humans think is exclusive to us.
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