Video: New Zealand Robins Demonstrate Their Counting Ability

Candice Gaukel Andrews January 8, 2015 5

We’re not the only species in the animal kingdom that can count: recently, New Zealand robins have demonstrated their math abilities.

My dog can count. I’m sure of this fact. After her daily walk, if she doesn’t receive precisely two treats, I will hear about it. If I try to shortchange her by offering only one, she will hound me until the second one is produced.

While I have hard evidence that she can count up to two, I suspect she may be able to count as high as seven. Every Sunday morning, my husband goes out to purchase a newspaper at our local convenience store, and he likes to take the dog with him on the car ride. Somehow, she seems to know when it’s that seventh morning of the week. She gets up early on that day and starts wagging her tail and jumping around. On the other six days of the week, she prefers to sleep in.

That’s why a new report published in November 2014 in the journal Behavioral Processes caught my attention. It demonstrates arithmetic ability and awareness in a wild population of New Zealand robins (Petroica australis), or toutouwai in Maori. In an experiment, researchers from the Victoria University of Wellington, School of Biological Sciences, tested the birds in a natural setting. The robins received neither training nor any rewards. The scientists showed that the birds felt agitated and “cheated” when they saw two mealworms going into a box but could only get one out.

Watch the video below, which depicts early trials with the robins taped a few years ago. It seems that all of us who belong to the animal kingdom appreciate the power of math when it comes to counting our expected treats.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,



  1. Colin Wright January 17, 2015 at 5:42 am - Reply

    Animals are capable of thinking much better than many people give them credit for.
    Intelligence is not a valid criteria for determining moral value though. The only valid criteria for determining moral value is the ability to feel sensations. If a being can suffer we have no right to exploit them.

    Using levels of intelligence for determining moral value is counter-productive to Animal Rights.

  2. Glenn Stanis January 15, 2015 at 9:51 am - Reply

    My dog can tell time. He lets me know when it is close to meal time 🙂

  3. Jalil S.M. January 10, 2015 at 10:51 am - Reply

    I am very much delighted to see this posting of CANDICE! She is excellent naturalist giving wonderful news of ROBIN. From time immemorial, we have been learning from nature, no body can deny it. Unfortunately many of us are not paying any heed to it. It is not Robin alone, there are many more natural entities go on telling us many things. It is our beloved naturalist, nature lover CANDICE has been paying her attention to natural entity like Robin, PET DOG and understand what they say. I feel bad as I am not in a position to honor CANDICE for her wonderful contribution to the society but I wish and hope that she will have another award for this discovery.

  4. Govind Bharad January 9, 2015 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    Congratulations Candice. This indicates the patience to record the unknown & bringing it to limelight. This is perhaps the proper way to deal with the research and it’s documentation. Best Wishes.

  5. Art Hardy January 8, 2015 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Never underestimate the brain of a critter when food is involved. Food IQ is way higher than all purpose IQ!

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