Manufacture and use of hook-tools by New Caledonian crows


TOOL behaviour in wild birds has been described as mostly stereotyped1,2, and tool manufacture involves little modification of material3–5. Here I report in New Caledonian crows Corvus moneduloides the manufacture and use of two different types of hook tool to aid prey capture: hooked-twig and stepped-cut barbed pandanus leaf. Crow tool manufacture had three features new to tool use in free-living nonhumans: a high degree of standardization, distinctly discrete tool types with definite imposition of form in tool shaping, and the use of hooks. These features only first appeared in the stone6 and bone7 tool-using cultures of early humans after the Lower Palaeolithic6,7, which indicates that crows have achieved a considerable technical capability in their tool manufacture and use.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Chevalier-Skolnikoff, S. Behav. Brain Sci. 12, 561–627 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Parker, S. & Gibson, K. J. hum. Evol. 6, 623–641 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Beck, B. B. Animal Tool Behaviour: The Use and Manufacture of Tools by Animals (Garland, New York, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Morse, D. H. The Wilson Bulletin 80, 220–223 (1968).

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Millikan, G. C. & Bowman, R. I. Living Bird 6, 23–41 (1967).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Mellars, P. in The Human Revolution (eds Mellars, P. & Stringer, C.) 338–365 (Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1989).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Yellen, J. E., Brooks, A. S., Cornelissen, E., Mehlman, M. J. & Stewart, K. Science 268, 553–556 (1995).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Délacour, J. Guide des oiseaux de la Nouvelle-Calédonie et ses Dépendances (Delachaux and Niestlé, Neuchâtel, 1966).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Reid, J. B. Anim. Behav. 30, 1212–1216 (1982).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Jones, T. B. & Kamil, A. C. Science 180, 1076–1078 (1973).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Grobecker, D. B. & Pietsch, T. W. Auk 95, 760–761 (1978).

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Zach, R. Behaviour 68, 106–117 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    James, P. C. & Verbeek, N. A. M. Ardea 72, 207–215 (1984).

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Gayou, D. C. The Wilson Bulletin 94, 593–594 (1982).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Orenstein, R. I. Auk 89, 674–676 (1972).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Napier, J. in Classification and Human Evolution (ed. Washburn, S. L.) 3rd edn 178–189 (Aldine, Chicago, 1969).

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Caron, A. J., Caron, R. F. & Antell, S. E. Devl Psychol. 24, 620–627 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    McGrew, W. C. Chimpanzee Material Culture: Implications for Human Evolution (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hunt, G. Manufacture and use of hook-tools by New Caledonian crows. Nature 379, 249–251 (1996).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.