Ravens, Corvus corax, follow gaze direction of humans around obstacles

Thomas Bugnyar, Mareike Stöwe, Bernd Heinrich

Abstract

The ability to follow gaze (i.e. head and eye direction) has recently been shown for social mammals, particularly primates. In most studies, individuals could use gaze direction as a behavioural cue without understanding that the view of others may be different from their own. Here, we show that hand–raised ravens not only visually co–orient with the look–ups of a human experimenter but also reposition themselves to follow the experimenter's gaze around a visual barrier. Birds were capable of visual co–orientation already as fledglings but consistently tracked gaze direction behind obstacles not before six months of age. These results raise the possibility that sub–adult and adult ravens can project a line of sight for the other person into the distance. To what extent ravens may attribute mental significance to the visual behaviour of others is discussed.