After researchers found that New Caledonian crows were using tools in clever new ways, such as to probe potentially dangerous situations, they may have found the answer to how they learned it.

The increased levels of reasoning in New Caledonian crows is connected to the kind of environment the crows are raised in, according to an article in today’s N.Y. Times.

A newly released study suggests that the crows use a formula commonly associated with building a successful human family.

Let your offspring have an extended childhood in a stable and loving home; lead by example; offer positive reinforcement; be patient and persistent; indulge even a near-adult offspring by occasionally popping a fresh cockroach into its mouth; and realize that at any moment a goshawk might swoop down and put an end to the entire pedagogical program.

New Caledonian crows, typically 12 ounces in weight and 12 inches long, appear to have larger brains than most birds, which reveal just how they can do activities like twist twigs to lift things out of narrow places or drop stones on platforms to release food.

These types of high functioning skills are also learned and passed down to young birds spend by their parents. Young birds spend about two or more years participating with their parents in making tools, foraging and pulling slugs out of trees.