A team of researchers in South Korea studied Brown Skuas birds, a species that only lives in Antarctica. The study revealed these birds were able to recognize people who had previously accessed their nests, proving that Skuas birds have a more evolved system in human recognition even though they live in human-free habitats.

The study published in the Animal Cognition Journal was held by the Korea Polar Research Institute in South Korea which had previously ventured into Antarctica to study the breeding of Stercorarius Antarcticus, better known as Brown Skuas.

Brown Skuas birds
Researchers found that Brown skuas birds were able to recognize people who had previously accessed their nests. Credit: Ibc.lynxeds.com

There has been proof that birds who live among human habitats such as crows, parrots, magpies and mockingbirds are able to recognize previously met humans. Yet it’s a surprise that Skua birds who live in a remote area with hardly any contact with humans are able to remember previous human interactions.

The research team performed different types of experiments. First, a team checked the nests of the birds once a week to monitor the breeding status of the species, but the Skuas bird started attacking at closer distances when the same visitor repeated the checking.

“I had to defend myself against the Skua attack. When I was with other researchers, the birds flew over me and tried to hit me. Even when I changed my field clothes, they followed me. The birds seemed to know me no matter what I wear,” Yeong-Deok Han, a Ph.D. student at Inha University.

The experiments included the previous visitor to the nest to check the breeding status and a pair of humans called “neutral humans” who had never accessed the nests before. All seven Skua birds followed and tried to attack the nest intruder but never followed the “neutral humans.”

Dr. Won Young Lee, Senior researcher from the Korea Polar Research Institute, expressed in the journal how amazing was that Skua birds who evolved in human-free habitats recognized humans after just 3 or 4 visits, explaining the high levels of cognitive abilities in the species.

Two theories have been developed by the researchers in the determination of how these birds are able to distinguish humans. One of the theories affirms that they possess pre-existing intelligence that helps them distinguish humans.

The other theory affirms that the birds acquire the ability through periodic exposure to humans/

Source: Springer