Magpies take decisions faster when they are looked at directly

Washington, June 8 (ANI): Researchers at the Seoul National University have found that wild birds appear to "think faster" when humans, and possibly predators in general, are directly looking at them.

"For a long time we had this impression that somehow magpies know that we are watching them because they often fly away from us when we observe them. But when we don't observe them, we can pass them pretty close-by but they don't fly away!" Dr. Sang-im Lee, the leader of magpie research team and the first author of the paper, said.

The researchers found that magpies on the campus of the Seoul National University also flew away at larger distances when humans were directly looking at them.

But this is not the most important finding of this research. When researchers, who were approaching foraging magpies, looked directly at the magpies, the magpies took the decisions faster regardless of whether the final decision was to return to foraging or to fly away and whether the stress or danger perceived by a magpie was low or high.

But when the approaching pair of humans did not look at the magpies, the decision to escape or not was taken with a delay.

In other words even if the magpies did not perceive the humans as dangerous they still took the decision faster (in this case decision to stay and continue foraging) when the humans were looking at them.

This is consistent with the idea that the birds are able to extract more information for their quick decisions from people's faces and/or gaze direction regardless of what kind of information they get. (ANI)

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