An interesting item on avian intelligence

To: "'John Leonard'" <>, "'Birding-aus'" <>
Subject: An interesting item on avian intelligence
From: "Stephen Ambrose" <>
Date: Sun, 10 May 2009 12:04:20 +1000
I agree with John. I remember seeing a David Attenborough documentary in the
late 1970s or early 1980s in which House Sparrows had to perform quite
complex tasks in order to gain access to the nuts in bird feeders. The
experiments (conducted by an Oxford or Cambridge University scientist, I
think) demonstrated that House Sparrows not only remembered previous
procedures for the accessing food, but could anticipate what would happen if
they tried a new procedure in a modified feeder setup. Therefore, they had
excellent problem-solving abilities which they could remember.

Peter S, science needs skeptics like you in order to have healthy scientific
debates. Keep up the good work! I think in this case, though, I don't think
there is any question that some bird species are good problem-solvers.
There's also some scientific research that shows that there is considerable
individual variability in problem-solving within bird species.

Okay, the next challenge, what is the dumbest bird species people have seen?
My vote goes to the Emu. It is the bird species with the smallest brain
relative to body size, and it shows in the species' behavior in my opinion.

Stephen Ambrose
Ryde, NSW

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of John Leonard
Sent: Sunday, 10 May 2009 11:28 AM
To: Birding-aus
Subject: An interesting item on avian intelligence

I think birds are generally more intelligent than we credit them.

Alex the African Grey parrot, who died recently, was a famous clever
bird who could use signs to communicate. But someone said of him that
there was no reason to believe he was any more intelligent than the
average African Grey Parrot; the challenging thing was finding an
intelligent human to devise ways that Alex could demonstrate
intelligence to humans-a talented interpreter!

John Leonard


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