From the beginning of this month, the British Trust for Ornithology is asking the British public to take part in a national survey of bird intelligence. Information can be submitted via film clips, photos or descriptions of the behaviour that has been observed. The survey itself is concentrating on one particular member of the corvid family, namely the rook.

This breed has performed well in intelligence based tests in laboratory studies which showed them solving practical problems and using tools to help them get to food. The survey is hoping to show that these skills are applied in the wild. They have already been know to drop walnuts onto roads and then waiting for the traffic to crack them open.

Even though the crow is first and foremost a farmland bird, and so tends to keep away from more urban areas, in recent times they are increasingly being seen in towns and cities using garden feeders as a source of food. Therefore it is hoped that they will be able to study their natural behaviour in a new environment. The project is hoping that they will be able to look at six areas of the bird’s behaviour, namely, ‘feeding, caching (hiding and storing food), tolerance, object play, socializing and vocalisation.

It is hoped that the public input into the project will help to provide vital information into how the rooks are using the gardens and that footage will be available showing them producing solutions to problems that they wouldn’t normally encounter in the wild. In addition the charity is hoping they can understand the overall behaviour of the birds in order to work out the reason that their numbers have declined over the last few years. So grab your binoculars and your Timberland boots from the hall and get out into the garden and see what those clever rooks get up to when they think you are not looking.