Is This Whooper Swan’s Behaviour a Sign of Real Intelligence?
Some time ago I saw a TV documentary where they showed new evidence of birds’ intelligence. According to the documentary, birds had much better problem solving skills than we had ever believed them to have.
A few days later I saw and filmed something that instantly made me think of what they had said in the documentary.
I witnessed, as I a couple of times before already had, one swan – whether it was the same bird or not each time, that I don’t know – mount a small ice raft and ride it for a short distance on the river.
As I hadn’t succeeded in capturing any of those previous events on video, I decided not to let it happen this time too.
So I focused my camera on the only ice raft nearby and started waiting.
I didn’t have to wait too long until one of the whooper swans climbed on it. That, however, was no real sign of intelligence as it was running away from the other swans.
But then things got more interesting: Once it was on the raft, it stayed there standing quite calmly and waiting for the ice to reach the edge of the solid ice. As soon as that happened, the swan left the raft and climbed on it.
But that is not the most interesting part, which was yet to come: After a while the swan stepped back on the ice raft, which started sinking slowly under the weight of the swan.
And what did the bird do then? It just stayed quite still and calm until the ice had sunk deep enough for the swan to just start swimming.
If that is not a sign of the swan’s skill to solve a problem, what is then?