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Magpies mourning?! (1 Viewer)

Sancho

Well-known member
Until Magpies learn to talk and explain what´s going on inside their heads, the only "proof" we have is what we can see. My dog seems to express "joy" when I produce his leash, "sadness" when I leave the house without him, and "anger" when he sees a rat. These may be behavioural responses/evolutionary adaptations. So might my reactions be if I won the lottery, learned of the death of a loved one, or intercepted a burglar. Either my dog (and magpies) experience "emotions", or Humans experience Existence on an entirely different level to other living beings. That would make us a veritable "Chosen Species", which I´m inclined to doubt. I´m with the OP, I think the magpies (and my dog) have emotions that are just as valid as mine. Or else, it´s all semantics...."Emotions" means no more and no less than behavioural responses that somehow assist DNA survival - for the magpies, my dog and me.
 

Adam W

Well-known member
As far as I have seen all these 'studies' show animals doing things that look a bit like something humans do and making the leap to assuming that therefore it is the same.

It's a bit like hearing a pet parrot say 'Who's a pretty boy then?' and assuming that it has some sense of aesthetics and beauty.

I couldnt agree more with that, i suspect this maybe exactly what is happening.
 

turkish van

Number 1 celebrity badger
Until Magpies learn to talk and explain what´s going on inside their heads, the only "proof" we have is what we can see. My dog seems to express "joy" when I produce his leash, "sadness" when I leave the house without him, and "anger" when he sees a rat. These may be behavioural responses/evolutionary adaptations. So might my reactions be if I won the lottery, learned of the death of a loved one, or intercepted a burglar. Either my dog (and magpies) experience "emotions", or Humans experience Existence on an entirely different level to other living beings. That would make us a veritable "Chosen Species", which I´m inclined to doubt. I´m with the OP, I think the magpies (and my dog) have emotions that are just as valid as mine. Or else, it´s all semantics...."Emotions" means no more and no less than behavioural responses that somehow assist DNA survival - for the magpies, my dog and me.

Good 'un. I agree. I suspect they don't 'feel' such a complex range of emotions to such a depth, but they are there in some form.

Let's not place ourselves on too high a pedestal, we're all animals, you just never know....
 

David FG

The Big Dipper
Good 'un. I agree. I suspect they don't 'feel' such a complex range of emotions to such a depth, but they are there in some form.

Let's not place ourselves on too high a pedestal, we're all animals, you just never know....

And you are, in effect, saying 'you just never know' therefore it must be...

That's quite a jump: you don't know Magpies don't have emotions, therefore they do.

You don't know I'm not Brad Pitt's richer, better-looking younger brother, therefore I am, right?
 

Sancho

Well-known member
And you are, in effect, saying 'you just never know' therefore it must be...

No, we´re saying "We suspect, based on the visual evidence". The contrary view states "We suspect not, based on the visual evidence". Neither side can claim any more scientific basis than the other. Either way, it doesn´t really matter to the magpies, or to us when we "genuinely" mourn, laugh or are moved to anger. Unless of course we decide that we are "superior" to animals because of our "higher" emotions, and consequently assume dominion over them and their environment.

Turkish Van - I agree, my dog doesn´t seem to have quite the "range" of emotions that I appear (to myself) to have. "Ennui" doesn´t seem to affect him; he´s capable of sitting for hours doing nothing.;)
 

turkish van

Number 1 celebrity badger
And you are, in effect, saying 'you just never know' therefore it must be...

That's quite a jump: you don't know Magpies don't have emotions, therefore they do.

You don't know I'm not Brad Pitt's richer, better-looking younger brother, therefore I am, right?

But equally you're assuming it just can't be?

I guess it depends on your general viewpoint, as there seem to be few facts around. If you see humans as animals, it doesn't take a massive jump to conclude that magpies may have some sense of 'human' emotions. If you see humans as on another disctinct plane to all other animal species, it may be harder to accept that others can have anything approaching what we experience.

The magpies may not be mourning or grieving in the way we would, but that doesn't mean they have no awareness at all of what has happened.
 

turkish van

Number 1 celebrity badger
Turkish Van - I agree, my dog doesn´t seem to have quite the "range" of emotions that I appear (to myself) to have. "Ennui" doesn´t seem to affect him; he´s capable of sitting for hours doing nothing.;)

Likewise, I never see any guilt when my cats spend the whole day sleeping then wake everyone up at night because they want some attention...

So selfish ;)
 

David FG

The Big Dipper
Well, each to there own. BUT, you naysayers may want to read this >

Magpies 'feel grief and hold funerals'



...and to finish of, ill leave you with this quote taken from the same article >



Scource

Im going to believe Dr Bekoff, of the University of Colorado before anyone on here :)

Be safe and be well.

Someone with a doctorate who works in a rather obscure American university? I wouldn't dismiss the qualifications and experience of a good many of the people on this forum too lightly.

And your 'source' is the Daily Telegraph. Not noted for its scientific rigour, if I might say so.
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
A bit of searching on Bekoff gives an idea of where he stands. However, I think dismissing the reaction of magpies on seeing a dead one as "looking for something to eat" is wrong too.
Corvids are known to become very excited on seeing a dead or distressed (conceived) member of the same species. This can have all kinds of origins: warning/search for a predator, implications to the pecking order etc. The fact that they return to the same spot may have to do with having a second look at what caused the danger (corvids have a good memory for sites).
These observations must have led to farmers hanging up dead crows (or black plastic): a common method in the Netherlands to (try to) keep them off fields.
I think corvids definitely are more intelligent than swallows or ducks, that will even try to copulate with dead congeners... [and not because they are perverted].
 

Cheshire Birder

Well-known member
Call me Mr Picky if you will, but I prefer my science evidence-based.

A great deal of science that we use today is based on visual evidence. We may not know what is causing the behaviour but just because we don't understand it doesn't make it untrue.

Although not a scientifically rigorous example here's an extract from the first chapter of "The Emotional Lives of Animals" by Mark Bekoff that is directly related to the original post...
"Magpies are corvids, a very intelligent family of birds. One magpie had obviously been hit by a car and was lying dead on the side of the road. The four other magpies were standing around him. One approached the corpse, gently pecked at it - just as an elephant noses the carcass of another elephant - and stepped back. Another magpie did the same thing. 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 magpies stood vigil for a few seconds and one by one they flew off."

Although there might be a number of possible explanations, Bekoff suggests that the birds both knew what they were doing and were showing respect to the dead magpie.

There are a number of books and papers out regarding cognition and emotions in animals by scientists such as Bekoff, Jonathan Balcombe, Bernd Heinrich and Gordan Burghardt. They're all "proper" scientists and from the evidence they provide it seems pretty clear that birds are emotional animals that can feel pleasure, pain etc.

Observational study is a perfectly valid scientific method.

Until Magpies learn to talk and explain what´s going on inside their heads, the only "proof" we have is what we can see. My dog seems to express "joy" when I produce his leash, "sadness" when I leave the house without him, and "anger" when he sees a rat. These may be behavioural responses/evolutionary adaptations. So might my reactions be if I won the lottery, learned of the death of a loved one, or intercepted a burglar. Either my dog (and magpies) experience "emotions", or Humans experience Existence on an entirely different level to other living beings. That would make us a veritable "Chosen Species", which I´m inclined to doubt. I´m with the OP, I think the magpies (and my dog) have emotions that are just as valid as mine. Or else, it´s all semantics...."Emotions" means no more and no less than behavioural responses that somehow assist DNA survival - for the magpies, my dog and me.

If we look closely enough at any animal species it would seem "emotions" or what appear to be emotions are found quite widely throughout the animal kingdom.

CB
 

David FG

The Big Dipper
A great deal of science that we use today is based on visual evidence. We may not know what is causing the behaviour but just because we don't understand it doesn't make it untrue.



Observational study is a perfectly valid scientific method.





CB

It is indeed. But to go from:

'a bird has done X', to:

'a bird has done X because...' without any evidence of why, is not.
 

Sancho

Well-known member
It is indeed. But to go from:

'a bird has done X', to:

'a bird has done X because...' without any evidence of why, is not.

But isn´t all study of animal behaviour (and indeed human behaviour) based on supposition of this kind? That´s all we´ve got, it´s not like the physical sciences. We can only make educated guesses at the reasons for birds singing at dawn, dogs barking at strangers, or our own use of language, propensity to violence or occasional altruism. The evidence is the behaviour itself. Explaining the reasons involves studying it, and forming opinions, but these must be constantly revised and occasionally discarded as new evidence is presented. We can´t put the animals/birds/humans in a laboratory to study them, because the environment alters their behaviour, so it´s always going to be imprecise, and there will always be different interpretations of the evidence.
 

David FG

The Big Dipper
But isn´t all study of animal behaviour (and indeed human behaviour) based on supposition of this kind? That´s all we´ve got, it´s not like the physical sciences. We can only make educated guesses at the reasons for birds singing at dawn, dogs barking at strangers, or our own use of language, propensity to violence or occasional altruism. The evidence is the behaviour itself. Explaining the reasons involves studying it, and forming opinions, but these must be constantly revised and occasionally discarded as new evidence is presented. We can´t put the animals/birds/humans in a laboratory to study them, because the environment alters their behaviour, so it´s always going to be imprecise, and there will always be different interpretations of the evidence.

Yes, I do see your point, but it still seems one hell of a jump to infer that because one animal species behaves in some way that vaguely resembles something another species does, it is therefore for the same reason.

Especially when the species in question are so widely separated as a Magpie and a human. A chimpanzee and a human perhaps...
 

Sancho

Well-known member
Yes, I do see your point, but it still seems one hell of a jump to infer that because one animal species behaves in some way that vaguely resembles something another species does, it is therefore for the same reason.

Especially when the species in question are so widely separated as a Magpie and a human. A chimpanzee and a human perhaps...

Yes, good point, and I see what you mean. Easy enough to "recognise" my dog´s "feelings", but I find it hard to empathise with woodlice in my house....when they scarper if I try to whack them, I don´t empathise and say "poor little things, they´re expressing ´fear´".
 
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Popcornnn

New member
Intelligent they may be, but I think attributing anything like 'mourning', 'grieving' or 'saying goodbye' is pushing it a bit far. (To say the least.)

More likely preparing to indulge in a newly-available food source...
What? You think animals lack emotion. How blind you are. Emotion is the fundamental experience of life, it is love. Only a dead ‘intellectual’ Who’s jelled off their connection to life could believe otherwise.
 
I see Popcornnn has opened an 11-year old thread and this can be seen as annoying to many but I must admit I enjoyed reading through this old thread - and now I too have an observation to add if I may.

I witnessed a right-old commotion going on whilst walking through a local tree-lined street where there was many Magpie gathering in the trees and all of them making a right old racket.

I thought to myself that they seemed to be alarm-calling so I looked around for a predator and sure enough I spied the culprit - a female Sparrowhawk flying away.

But the birds were still vociferous and excited even though the 'threat' had gone - so I looked around again and spotted a Wood Pigeon on the ground struggling to get back up.

At first I thought I'd snap its neck to save it from pain but then I thought maybe it was just stunned and therefore could make a recovery and I would let nature dictate its fate.

Anyway, more Magpie gathered to watch this bird - and then the local Carrion Crows gathered too.

The street wasn't just lined with trees but with birds - looking like something from a certain Hitchcock movie.

So I hung around intrigued by this situation and sure enough the poor Wood Pigeon succumbed to its injuries - and as soon as one Magpie came to 'inspect' this pigeon then so did all the birds and it became quite chaotic and gruesome, but 'natural' too.

So regarding the original thread, I think (well, just to add that I don't t think we can equate humans as a 'chosen species' unless you have a faith so therefore we can assume that on a secular level that we have just evolved differently) that animal behaviour and instinct cannot be associated with 'human' emotions as that IS anthropomorphising things - just as I can't just flap my arms and tweet and be seen to have empathy with bird behaviour - but their own evolutionary instincts can manifest themselves as such.
 

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