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4 Animals Who Mourn Their Dead

4 Animals Who Mourn Their Dead
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Editorís note:†This post is a†Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on September 3, 2012. Enjoy!

Western scrub jays hold what we would call funerals when they encounter a dead member of their species. Teresa Iglesias and colleagues from the University of California at Davis noted that jays, on seeing a dead bird, gather around it; in the journal Animal Behavior, they write that this behavior may have evolved from needing to warn other birds of dangers.

The scientists conducted experiments in which they placed a number of objects into residential yards and observed how the jays reacted. The objects included different colored pieces of wood, dead jays, mounted stuffed jays and great horned owls.

The jays were indifferent to the wood. They gathered together and issued alarm calls on seeing the mounted horned owls, apparently because they thought they were predators. They sometimes mobbed the stuffed jay, a behavior displayed when seeing a competitor or a sick bird.

But their behavior towards the dead birds was the most significant. Not only did the jays issue alarm calls to warn others far away, but they stopped foraging for food for days. As the BBC explains, after finding the dead bird,

The jays then gathered around the dead body, forming large cacophonous aggregations. The calls they made, known as “zeeps”, “scolds” and “zeep-scolds”, encouraged new jays to attend to the dead.

The scientists wrote that just the sight of a dead bird was enough to make the jays seek to share this information to warn other birds of possible dangers, even “without witnessing the struggle and manner of death.”

Jays are not the only animals who scientists have observed taking notice of their dead.†

Photo by Eliya

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4:05AM PDT on Sep 21, 2015

Are the human humane like them?

3:26AM PDT on Sep 21, 2015

thanks for the article.

7:07AM PDT on Sep 10, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

5:17PM PST on Feb 15, 2014

intriguing. at least animals dont seem to turn to delusion

4:01PM PST on Dec 27, 2013


8:07AM PST on Dec 22, 2013


2:32PM PST on Dec 20, 2013

Many types of birds mourn their dead not just western jays. The great apes mourn their dead and many mammals of all kinds mourn their dead. Life of every kind where ever it exists has mourned their dead and are very much self aware. The only problem is humans underestimating the intelligence of life forms different from themselves and humans thinking and believing their superiority over all other life forms on this planet and elsewhere. Humans claim to fame is being the deadliest predator on the planet and to the planet.

11:22AM PST on Dec 20, 2013

I stopped when I saw 4 pages.

10:06AM PST on Dec 20, 2013

I have watch shows with some animals that mourn the death of theirs it is heart wrenching.

6:26PM PST on Dec 19, 2013

I saw some Indian mynah birds in the middle of a road freaked out by one of their flock being killed. They were all hanging around, in danger of being hit themselves, and obviously very upset. Even though they are an introduced species, and an absolute menace in Australia, it was very distressing to see. One bird was in the middle of the road, absolutely immobile, rigid, staring at the sky - there was traffic everywhere and it was dangerous to go out and take it off the road - and just as I was about to, some PIG of a woman deliberately ran it down. I was so angry - she couldn't have seen from where she was travelling that it was a mynah bird - it could have been a native bird - and I was going to go and haul the bi**h out of her rotten car but the lights changed and she escaped my wrath.

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