Fission-Fusion Dynamics and Social Cognition in Wild Ravens

Causes for the pronounced individual differences in fission-fusion dynamics of non-breeders and effects on the birds’ social knowledge about relationships

Project Details

Principal Investigator Prof. Dr. Thomas Bugnyar

Funding FWF – Austrian Science Fund

Programme Stand-Alone Project

Project Duration 14.11.2016-13.05.2020

Project Number P 29705

Research Objective

Raven non-breeders forage in groups at rich food sources. These groups are structured by social relationships, leading to a cognitively sophisticated system of dependent ranks. Yet, these groups are also characterized by high inter-individual variation in fission-fusion dynamics, with some birds staying at a foraging site over long time periods and others for a few days only. The interplay between spatio-temporal dynamics in social structure, the formation of social relationships and social cognition is little understood.

Research Questions

If certain individuals prefer to stay in a group, whereas others prefer to fission, this raises pressing questions like what factors determine their preferences and how do they relate to the subjects’ social skills and knowledge?


Matthias-Claudio Loretto, PhD

Mario Gallego-Abenza, MSc


Prof. Dr. Thomas Bugnyar

Phone: +43 (0)1 4277 76112

Email: thomas.bugnyar[at]