Fwd: [BIRDING-AUS] Birds with smaller brains less likely to survive

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Subject: Fwd: [BIRDING-AUS] Birds with smaller brains less likely to survive
From: John Leonard <>
Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2005 07:20:07 +1000

Sounds like a piece of pop science to me. After all, birds have been around for millions of years and throughout all that time environments have been changing. If birds with smaller brians were disadvantaged per se then there wouldn't be any birds other than passerines in existence by now. I think they need to go back and look for other explanations.

John L

On 9/14/05, knightl <> wrote:,,1569265,00.html

Birds with smaller brains less likely to survive

Alok Jha, science correspondent
Wednesday September 14, 2005
The Guardian

Being bird-brained is far worse than the jokes might have suggested.
Never mind that birds have never been one of the most intelligent
animals, research shows that the smaller a bird's brain, the more
likely the species is to die out in the wild.

British farmland bird populations have been declining for 50 years and
the accepted explanation is the intensification of agriculture. Based
on the fact that some species have survived better than others,
researchers looked for specific characteristics that influenced
survival rates.

Using data gathered by the British Trust for Ornithology between 1968
and 1995, they found that, as well as habitat loss through increased
agriculture, there were basic biological reasons influencing survival.
"There does seem to be a positive advantage to these birds in being
smart," said Tim Blackburn, an ecologist at the University of
Birmingham. "The size of the brain influences the probability that
these farmland birds are declining."

The population of great tits, for example, increased on farmland by
around 75%, and the number of magpies went up by 80%. However, the grey
partridge population fell by 75% and the lapwing by 40%. The relative
sizes of the brains in the former are bigger than those in the latter.

The brain has a variety of functions, but there are parts that
scientists think are the sites of higher-level function. In mammals,
the higher functions are concentrated in the cortex and the frontal
lobe. In birds, the equivalent is an area of the brain called the
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