magpies and mirrors

A great little piece of ‘news’ about Magpies – they can recognise themselves in a mirror! The Guardian Blog article about these intelligent birds alerted me to this neat little piece of research carried out at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.

The researchers put marks onto the throat of each magpie (named Gertie and Goldie) and observed that the birds noticed in the mirror, and tried to groom to remove the marks. That, according to Helmut Prior, Ariane Schwarz and Onur Gu, is the first evidence ever of mirror-self-recognition in animals without a neo-cortex and the first time modern science has recorded this type of behaviour in non-mammals.  


The nice people at Goethe University have made the magpies and mirrors paper freely available here. (PDF download.)

This now begs the question – was it vanity? (Ha!) Comments from philosophers and psychologists welcome!


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