Remarkable Things About Bird Intelligence

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Image: Crow of New Caledonia, by John Gerrard Keulemans, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

At one time there was an assumption – not really a theory – that vertebrates were smarter than invertebrates and mammals were smarter than birds. Well along came the octopus, who turns out to be as smart as a typical mammal. And the New Caledonian crow, which can be as smart as a monkey. These life forms have very different brains from each other, so intelligence does not appear to reside in any specific brain organization.

While researchers are figuring this out, let’s take a look at some recent findings about what bird brain (avian) can do. We’re looking at behaviors that likely require some individual intelligence, not just heredity program:

In their experiment, the team designed a golf game for a species of bird, Goffin’s cockatoo, which is known for its problem-solving skills and ability to use simple tools such as sticks to open doors. nut and seed shells.

The birds had to manipulate a ball through a hole in a closed box, then use a stick to push the ball to one side of the box where it triggers a trapdoor mechanism. This in turn releases a cashew for the bird.

Three of the cockatoos figured out how to use the stick to maneuver the ball into the correct position to release the treat, showing a high level of tool innovation.

UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAMGOLF COCKATOOS REVEAL ABILITY TO USE COMBINED TOOLS” AT EVERYDAY SCIENCE (FEBRUARY 8, 2022); THE PAPER IS IN FREE ACCESS.

Goffin’s Cockatoos also carve tree branches into knife and spoon shaped utensils for pierce the pits of the fruits. This is all the more remarkable considering that chimpanzees in another study couldn’t understand that.

  • African gray parrots have been observed to share tokens – given to them by humans – which they associate with a treat (nut) with other parrots by way of exchange or just utility:

Parrots, it seems, not only have the ability to understand metal rings as currency for food, but they also “understand the consequences their actions can have on another individual,” Christina says. Riehl, a bird behavior expert at Princeton University. did not participate in the research. “That’s quite sophisticated reasoning.”

CATHERINE J.WUPARROTS WILL SHARE CURRENCY TO HELP FRIENDS BUY FOOD” AT SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE (JANUARY 9, 2020); THE PAPER IS IN FREE ACCESS.

Is this an example of an abstract understanding of the concept of money? It’s more likely a learned series of steps: give a token, get a nut. Or anyway, get some social interaction with a neighbor. But it’s still quite complex. And, researchers say, blue-headed macaws couldn’t – or at least didn’t – do it.

An African gray parrot, Alex (1976–2007), become famous for his ability to learn words after intense training.

Read more on The mind matterspublished by the Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence at the Discovery Institute.

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