Ravens are the largest songbirds in the world and are considered to be very intelligent. The raven pair Munia and Rufus at the zoo come from Haidlhof (Lower Austria), a field office of the University of Vienna operated in collaboration with the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. Haidlhof is home to a large raven colony. Researchers are conducting experiments both on the ravens there and at the zoo.
The experiments are designed to gain insight into the intelligence of these birds. What do the animals know about each other, how well do they use tools, how do they learn from one another and how long do they remember what they learned? Animal communication is also part of the study: How do they form sounds and what information do their calls convey?
Basic research such as this does more than simply yield new knowledge about what animals are capable of. It also offers insights into the evolutionary origins of human intelligence and culture.
A variety of methods are applied to test the intelligence of these birds. Experiments using mirrors, for example, help to reveal whether ravens can recognize themselves in a mirror. The recorded calls of other ravens are played back to the pair at the zoo to test whether they can still remember other ravens they knew at Haidlhof. Feeding experiments also provide further insights into social learning in ravens.