An endangered crow species from Hawaii that already is extinct in the wild displays remarkable proficiency in using small sticks and other objects to wrangle a meal, joining a small but elite group of animals that use tools.

Scientists said on Wednesday that in a series of experiments the crow, known by its indigenous Hawaiian name 'Alala, used objects as tools with dexterity to get at hard-to-reach meat, sometimes modifying them by shortening sticks that were too long, or making tools from raw plant material.

"Tool use is exceedingly rare in the animal kingdom," evolutionary ecologist Christian Rutz of the University of St Andrews in Scotland, who led the study published in the journal Nature, said in an email.