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.”
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.
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.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, May 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30.
Saturday mornings, May 12 & 26.
May 5, 8-10 AM at East/Rice Canyon. Botanical Picky Eaters. It’s not broccoli that they are refusing to eat, but wildflowers sure can be stubborn with their food! Explore how the physical setting affects what grows there. Meet outside the front gate. For directions and a trail map, click here.
May 12, 10 AM – 3 PM. Open House and Family Festival at Placerita Canyon. The usually serene Placerita Canyon State Park will bustle with activity when the county of Los Angeles and the Placerita Canyon Nature Center Associates host a big open house and family festival. Placerita Canyon Nature Center, 19152 Placerita Canyon Road, www.placerita.org.
May 19, 8-9 AM at Towsley Canyon. Busy Birds of May. May is a busy month for birds; time for the youngsters to test their wings and leave the nest. Beginning birders are welcom. Binoculars optional. Meet at Towsley Canyon’s front parking lot. For directions and a trail map, click here.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has just created a new website with trail maps for our local open spaces: http://hikesantaclarita.com/.
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