humans alone are not blessed with the faculty to plan ahead. So are some birds. At least that's what recent research by Cambridge University scientists suggests. Foresight, a report in Nature (Vol 445, No 7130) says, is a trait of the scrub-jays, a species of the corvid class of birds that meticulously plans ahead.
In two experiments on scrub-jays, the birds were kept in two-room cages. They were allowed to move around. In the first experiment the birds were fed ground pine nuts, which they cannot store, and peanuts and dog kibble, which they can.
They got all three for breakfast in one room and thrown off routine with an unexpected evening meal in the other. The researchers found they stored more food from an evening meal in the room where they were usually not fed as compared to when they got the night treat in the "breakfast room".
The team led by Nicola Clayton reported this was an indication of the birds 'planning ahead' anticipating they would go hungry in the morning. In a second experiment, the scrub-jays were fed breakfast in both rooms. However, in one room they got dog kibble and the other peanuts. When allowed to store both types of food anywhere in the cage the researchers found the birds preferred to stored the peanuts in the dog kibble room and vice versa.
"The results suggest that the jays can spontaneously plan for tomorrow without reference to their current motivational state, thereby challenging the idea that this is a uniquely human ability," the team reported. Clayton said the report is part of a growing body of evidence for corvid intelligence.