Lateralization of tool use in New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides).
Many vertebrate species exhibit sensory and motor asymmetries. Laterality studies of tool use have focused on primates, where hemispheric asymmetries, manifested behaviourally in hand preferences, are thought to be associated with complex motor tasks. Here we report strong individual lateralization for tool use in birds. New Caledonian crows, Corvus moneduloides, hold stick tools with their bills while foraging, often with the nonworking end laterally positioned on one side of the head and the working end possibly positioned in the binocular field. We observed four wild crows to determine whether tools were consistently held on one side. All crows showed a significant preference (two right, two left). This preference was independent of any asymmetry in tool manufacture and held for artificial holes similarly accessible for tools held on either side. This is the first demonstration of lateralized tool use in a nonprimate. In addition, all 173 tools used unilaterally were held only on a crow’s preferred side. Such pronounced individual laterality for tool use in natural conditions has previously been reported only in humans and chimpanzees.