Monday, August 20, 2007

Bird Brains or For the Birds

This will be short as I was out of the information loop for most of the day.
An observant relative forwarded a BBC story from “up north” about the ability of crows to fashion and use in quick succession “tools” to get at food.

Moreover, the researchers who hail from Canada, have taken some 2,000 incidents over seventy-five years of observed creative or new ways that crows get at food and developed an avian intelligence rating system.

At the top are crows and jays, both of which in my limited experience are rather unpleasant types. Next in line are falcons, with hawks, herons and woodpeckers scoring quite impressively.

One story, which is attributed to a Zimbabwe (at the time still Rhodesia) falconer but is not unique to that country, has a vulture sitting on a fence near a mine-field waiting for the unsuspecting domestic cow or wild buckhorn to stumble in and set off a mine.

Three points in the Canadian report are noteworthy:
- the most unpleasant birds are the most adaptable when it comes to “getting” for themselves;
- hunting species, both “domesticated” and wild, have to be highly calculating to intercept their prey in flight;
- parrots, the mythic icon of swashbuckling brigands, despite their relatively large brain, scored poorly.

Translated into human behaviors:
- the self- centered and greedy often are also the most demanding and pushy people on the planet;
- we go to great lengths to train soldiers to kill people and destroy things but fail to weigh the psychological effects arising from either repeated killing of enemy soldiers and witnessing the deaths of colleagues;
- those who talk but only say (and do) the same thing eventually are “outed” and eventually are ignored by everyone else.

When all three types end up running a country, it makes one wonder if the voting public aren’t like another species, now extinct in the avian world but not among humans – the dodo.

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