Called a 'bird brain?' Study says it may be a compliment
Excerpts of article by By Wayne A. Hall, Times Herald-Record, [email protected]
[A] crow studied in England now makes tools, as well
as uses them. Betty, in a lab at England's Oxford University,
figured out how to bend a piece of wire into a hook and retrieve what
Two crows – Betty and Abel - were presented with a small bucket of
food inside a tube and two pieces of wire, one hooked and one straight. "Our
surprise came when, in the fifth trial, the male stole the hooked wire
from the female and took it away. Far from giving up, she then picked
the remaining straight wire and bent it herself," says Oxford
professor Alex Kacelnik. Betty repeated the success over and over,
using the wire to pull the bucket up by its handle, illustrating this: "Toolmaking
and tool use has always been considered one of the diagnostics of a
superior intelligence. Now a bird is shown to have greater sophistication
than many closer relatives of us humans," Kacelnik said.
Washingtonville's Herb Stein, an expert birder, says
his friends' macaw stuck his foot out of its cage, turned the key padlock,
pulled out the key left inserted by the owner, and opened his door.
The bird got out and trashed the room. Crows and their cousins, the
blue jay, are bright, too.
It seems that brain size dictates a lot of bird smarts.
Big brain in relationship to body size makes keen bird, says
Cornell University researcher Tim DeVoogd. He's studying one of the most
mid-Hudson birds, the tiny chickadee, a frequent bird feeder
visitor with a big brain for a bird. Show one of these winged pixies
the food is hidden on a wall of wooden blocks and guess what? "After
[one look] it can remember the location for weeks," says DeVoogd. "That's
Canada geese are alert, but when they walk up to a fence,
it doesn't occur to them that they can fly over it, says Stein.
[Editor’s Note: We’ve seen geese fly over fences except
when they are molting or youngsters and CAN’T fly.]
The Associated Press contributed to this story.