Animal Emotions

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Thoughtful Birds In Action: Bird Brains Are Highly Evolved

Watch this awesome video about how birds solve novel problems in the wild

Birds are amazing nonhuman animals (animals). I just learned about a wonderful video called "Thoughtful birds in action" directed by Dr. Deirdre Cobbin of the Faculty of Science at University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, that shows captive and wild birds performing amazing cognitive skills showing just how smart they are. Some of the scientists whose innovative and groundbreaking research is discussed include Giorgio Vallortigara, Gisela Kaplan, Lesley Rogers, Gavin Hunt, K-lynn Smith, Cinzia Chiandetti, and Culum Brown.

In order to learn about the behavior of other animals it is essential to observe them in their natural habitats and also to perform ecologically relevant and non-invasive experiments that allow the animals to behave so they are able to express behavior patterns that are part of their natural behavioral repertoires. In the wonderful video we see behavior patterns including the manufacture and use of tools by New Caledonian crows (see also and), sneaky chickens who deceive others by taking the perspective of the other bird, young chicks who can count and also perform addition and subtraction with small numbers, and magpies using alarm calls that show that they use referential signaling indicating a specific predator. We also learn that birds can plan for the future and are provided information on the neurobiology of bird brains showing that they, like us, have lateralized brains

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In this remarkable video you'll also see wild crows showing flexible behavior supporting the idea that they are capable of making causal inferences about the problem at hand, for example, using a tool to get another tool with which they can then get food. Their behavior cannot be adequately explained by simple associative learning. 

What I also liked about this video are the extremely clear explanations given by the scientists who are interviewed. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did because many of us will never have the opportunity or good fortune to see these animals in the wild.

Please stay tuned for more on the fascinating behavior of other animals. Once again I stress that being called a birdbrain is really a compliment.

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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