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North Island robins found to have long term memory


A pair of researchers at Victoria University of Wellington has found that North Island robins have long-term memory. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, Rachael Shaw and Annette Harvey describe experiments they conducted with the birds and what they learned from them.

Humans have notoriously long memories, as do some other animals. Elephants, for example, have been found to remember water holes they have not visited for many years. And red-footed tortoises have been observed retrieving food from stores stashed away over long periods of time. In this new effort, the researchers tested long-term memory in North Island robins living in New Zealand.

North Island robins, more popularly known as toutouwai, are native to New Zealand and are popular because they are cute and show little fear of humans—quite often, they can be seen alighting on a person’s shoulder, boot or even head. They are also small, just slightly bigger than a common sparrow. The work by Shaw and Harvey was initially an investigation into whether the birds could be taught to open a closed vessel to retrieve a desired bit of food. MORE

Header image: New Zealand North Island Robin (Māori name: Toutouwai). This bird is banded to identify it as part of a restoration scheme to return robins to Wellington and was released in the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, an area surrounded by a predator proof fence. The fence can be seen reflected in its eyeball. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

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