There have long been tales that animals, ranging from elephants and chimpanzees to birds in the crow family, react to deaths in their species.
But biologists from the University of California, Davis say they are the first to carry out scientific observations of the behavior.
Writing in the journal Animal Behavior, they report observing western scrub jays that were presented with a dead jay as well as a stuffed horned owl as a control."
Teresa Iglesias says that when they encountered a dead jay, prostrate on the ground, jays flew into a tree and “began a series of loud, screeching calls that attracted other jays.”
The summoned birds perched on trees and fences around the body and joined in the calls, for a time ranging from a few seconds to as long as 30 minutes.
She says it’s unclear why the calls summoned others rather than just warning them away from potential danger. Iglesias suggests that the gathering could be educational, possibly teaching about dangers in the environment.