This article now exists as a video, which includes a bonus section discussing how bird kind could take over the world by using hummingbirds as assassins.
First things first, for everyone who appreciates the pun in the title of this piece, thank you very much, I worked for about 10 minutes on that. For everyone else, did you know that there’s a way you can stop animals from being dicks to one another without hurting them?
Utilizing a concept known as Conditioned Taste Aversion which is often simply called CTA by scientists without any time to waste, it’s actually possible to coerce animals into avoiding their most basic instincts without harming or threatening them with a cartoonishly large butterfly net while motioning towards a nearby restaurant. In a nutshell, CTA basically involves taking something an animal would normally eat and tainting it with something that makes it taste like it was rolled in turds and vinegar. The idea is that the animal will soon come to associate whatever food it was you tainted with the unpleasant taste and learn to avoid it, similar to how animals learn to avoid some of the more toxic creatures that call our world their home.
While this may sound simple, it can and does work because as mentioned, it relies on the same concept that teaches animals not to eat poisonous plants and animals, if it tastes like shit, it’s probably not good for you. Unless it’s broccoli, in which case you better shovel that into your mouth like it’s powering a tiny furnace in your belly, that is how food works, right?
Moving on, perhaps one of the greatest examples of this concept in action was in 1983, when the workers of a bird sanctuary noticed that the eggs of some of their birds smallest and fuzziest birds, were being poached by a murder of local crows. Not wanting to set a bad example by shooting the crows or cursing their name in front of the other birds, the sanctuary workers hatched a novel solution, painting chicken eggs to look like those of some of their more endangered residents. Once the eggs were painted workers than coated them in a chemical that would cause any animal to eat it to become violently ill for a few hours.
Almost overnight, predation of the eggs stopped as the crows, which are regarded as one of the smartest birds in the world, learned that the eggs had suddenly started tasting bad and warned all of the bird-friends. As noted though, crows and their kin are very smart and when a similar experiment was conducted in 1995 with ravens, the big dick daddy of the crow family, the birds were observed stealing the tainted eggs, but not eating eating them, because ravens are fucking terrifying.