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Prof. Thomas Bugnyar

Conflict Management in Corvids

Dealing with conflicts is a major challenge for any socially living species. Individually based, flexibly-used skills to prevent conflicts and/or buffer their effects have been studied almost exclusively on mammals, i.e. primates. Recent findings suggest that patterns like third-party intervention, coalition formation, reconciliation and consolation may be also fund in captive corvids. However, it is unclear a) to what extent different species rely on which of those strategies, b) whether or not they are based on the same cognitive mechanisms and c) how these strategies are affected by different degrees of fission-fusion dynamics.

The work shall include an observational part, focussing on conflict management strategies of individually marked birds in wild populations of ravens and carrion crows, and an experimental part, manipulating the context (likelihood of aggression via distribution of resources) and the information accessible for bystanders (via playback of simulated encounters). Experiments shall be conducted mainly in captivity, on a total of four species (ravens, carrion crows, rooks and jackdaws). Observations shall be conducted in the area of the Cumberland Wildpark Grünau, in the Northern Austrian Alps (ravens), in the area of Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna (carrion crows) and in Leon, Spain (cooperatively breeding population of carrion crows).

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