Like humans, magpies too ‘feel grief and hold funerals’

October 21st, 2009 - 4:57 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Oct 21 (ANI): Magpies - usually seen as an aggressive predator - also have a tender side. They feel grief and even hold funeral-type gatherings for their fallen friends, an animal behaviour expert has claimed.

The claims are likely to reignite the debate about whether emotions are a uniquely human trait - or whether they are found across the whole animal kingdom.

Other studies have shown evidence of mourning in gorillas, empathy in rats, and friendship in cats.

Dr Bekoff, of the University of Colorado, examined four magpies alongside a magpie corpse and recorded their behaviour.

“One approached the corpse, gently pecked at it, just as an elephant would nose the carcase of another elephant, and stepped back. Another magpie did the same thing, ” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

“Next, one of the magpies flew off, brought back some grass and laid it by the corpse. Another magpie did the same. Then all four stood vigil for a few seconds and one by one flew off,” he added.

After publishing an account of the funeral, Dr Bekoff received emails from people who had seen the same ritual in magpies, ravens and crows.

“We can’t know what they were actually thinking or feeling, but reading their action there’s no reason not to believe these birds were saying a magpie farewell to their friend,” he said.

However, Dr Bekoff said emotions evolved in humans and animals because they improve the chances of survival.

“It’s bad biology to argue against the existence of animal emotions,” he said.

Dr Bekoff’s findings are published in the journal Emotion, Space and Society. (ANI)

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