PUBLISHED: 21:24 EST, 4 September 2012 | UPDATED: 03:00 EST, 5 September 2012
- Western scrub jays fly down to a dead body and gather around squaking loudly
Birds stop what they are doing and gather from miles around to hold noisy funeral services for their dead, it has been revealed.
A study of the behavioural patterns of western scrub jays by researchers at the University of California in Davis, found the birds often fly down to a dead body and gather around it squaking nosily.
The researchers, led by Teresa Iglesias, conducted a series of experiments which monitored the birds’ reactions to a variety of objects placed in back gardens.
Mourning: Western scrub jay stop what they are doing and gather from miles around to hold funeral for their dead
They included pieces of wood in different colours, dead jays, mounted, stuffed jays, stuffed great horned owls and were intended to simulate the presence of live jays and predators.
While the jays reacted indifferently to the wooden objects, when they spied a dead bird they started calling out to others long distances away.
The calls, known as ‘zeeps’, ‘scolds’ and ‘zeep-scolds’, encouraged other jays to attend large noisy congregations around the dead body.
As they appeared to mourn the dead bird, the jays would also stop foraging for food often for over a day.
The scientists believe the behaviour could have evolved to warn other birds of nearby danger.
When the birds were exposed to a predator in the form of the stuffed owl they also gathered together and made a series of alarm calls.
Never forget: Elephants are known to loiter around the body of a recently deceased close relative
They would also swoop down on the owl in an attempt to scare it off however they were never seen to swoop down on the body of a dead bird.
The birds would sometimes swoop down on the stuffed, mounted jays in a similar way to how they have been observed attacking competitors or sick birds in the wild.
The point of the wooden objects was to show that it was not the novelty of seeing a dead bird that triggered the jays reaction.
The findings, published in the journal Animal Behaviour, show that jays see the presence of a dead bird as information to be shared, like presence of a predator.
Jay are not the only animals known to take notice of their dead.
Elephants are known to loiter around the body of a recently deceased close relative, and giraffes have shown similar behaviour.