Tag Archives: Intelligence

Watch Out For Bird Brains

I’ve always thought that the observational powers of birds could be harnessed for good or evil. Perhaps the nuthatch republicans would like to place a tiny camera on a yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot’s head to spy on Venezuela’s leader, Hugo Chavez. They’re obsessed with his socialist activities, for some reason. Or the paparazzi would like to use little Tits to spy on bigger tits.

There are so many birds around us on a daily basis, we most often tune out their chatter. What a shame. I’ve noticed over twenty-five bird species in my own backyard while paying a minimum of attention over the years. On any given day there must be at least a dozen. I just hope none of them have been watching me too closely. Sometimes I have their cousins over for dinner.

Check out David Attenborough on YouTube. His series on the Life of Birds is brilliant and educational. The Bowerbirds are my favorite.

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Monkey See, Monkey Do Math

I think the general public has a somewhat comical view of animals and their mental abilities. From chickens playing tic-tac-toe at county fairs to “stupid pet tricks” on TV to humorous news clips of zoo animals entertaining the masses. It isn’t much of a résumé. Perhaps one of the mental barriers to seeing evolution in a clear light is regarding animals as buffoons; and being related to a buffoon is unacceptable to many people.

But if we actually give animal behavior more than a cursory glance, we find that many groups exhibit extraordinary abilities on par with humans, if not quanititatively then qualitatively. My favorite is the birds, specifically the corvid family. (Monkeys get all the attention, the diaper wearing media whores.) New Caledonian Crows have demonstrated their ability to use tools. Watch the video of a crow forming a wire tool, but look closely or you’ll miss the key moment.     

Wikipedia:

Bird Intelligence

Books:

Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays” by Candace Savage

 “Ravens In Winter” by Bernd Heinrich 

 

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