The conversations of life

Is this the scariest study ever? Research finds magpies get smarter living in big groups


If you weren’t already living in fear of them, researchers have found the black-and-white menaces gain “elevated cognitive performance” living in a large social group.

Looking at 14 groups of wild magpies ranging from three to 12 birds in Perth, the team from the University of Western Australia and University of Exeter in the UK used four tasks (their ability to swoop down on unsuspecting cyclists?) to test the birds’ memory, problem solving and ability to control inhibition.

The result? Those in larger groups consistently did better at all of the tasks than those in the smaller groups, with the smarter females also producing more offspring.

The researchers say the findings show social environment plays an important role in developing intelligence.

We say it proves what we’ve always suspected – the feathered fiends are coming for us. And they’re bringing their friends.

Lauren Broomham

Lauren is a journalist for, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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