Social learning about dangerous people by wild jackdaws

Victoria E. Lee*, Noémie Régli, Guillam E. McIvor, Alex Thornton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


For animals that live alongside humans, people can present both an opportunity and a threat. Previous studies have shown that several species can learn to discriminate between individual people and assess risk based on prior experience. To avoid potentially costly encounters, it may also pay individuals to learn about dangerous people based on information from others. Social learning about anthropogenic threats is likely to be beneficial in habitats dominated by human activity, but experimental evidence is limited. Here, we tested whether wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula) use social learning to recognize dangerous people. Using a within-subjects design, we presented breeding jackdaws with an unfamiliar person near their nest, combined with conspecific alarm calls. Subjects that heard alarm calls showed a heightened fear response in subsequent encounters with the person compared to a control group, reducing their latency to return to the nest. This study provides important evidence that animals use social learning to assess the level of risk posed by individual humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number191031
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number9
Early online date25 Sept 2019
Publication statusFirst published - 25 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognition
  • Corvid
  • Fear learning
  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • Social learning
  • Urban ecology


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