SCV Outdoor Report: The Point Of The Point
Santa Clarita Outdoor Report by Wendy Langhans
Children learn to communicate with gestures before they learn to communicate with words. Around the age of 8-10 months, babies begin pointing at objects with their hands, an action known as “deictic gestures”. Deictic gestures are gestures “that refer to something around the child -- pointing, showing an object, or reaching for something.”
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But primates aren’t the only creatures that make deictic gestures. Common Ravens do too, but instead of using their claws, they use their pointy beaks. According to a recent article from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, researchers working in Austria found that Common Ravens (Corvus corax) “use their beaks similar to hands to show and offer objects such as moss, stones and twigs” to other ravens. Click here to see a photo taken during their research.
So what’s the point? Why do ravens do that? For the same reason guys bring flowers to girls. Ravens offer objects to the “opposite sex” to get them to pay attention to the object and to the raven offering it. As described in this Science Daily article, Ravens use deictic gestures “in order to test the interest of a potential partner or to strengthen an already existing bond”.
As a result, “the ravens interacted with each other ... by billing or joint manipulation of the object. But don’t confuse “billing” with sending an invoice. “Billing” is the bird equivalent of kissing; it means to “touch and clasp each other's bills”. Click here to see an example of billing. And don’t confuse “joint manipulation” with cracking your knuckles. Think of sharing a root beer float with two straws. Or pretending that a spoon full of baby-food is an airplane seeking to land.
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In other words, the point of the point is to point....out the Raven’s sterling qualities to potential mates or to strengthen the existing relationship between Ravens. And if you want to know how strong these relationship bonds can be, just remember how you felt the first time your grade-school crush smiled at you. And if that’s too long ago, then remember the last time a baby waved at you.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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