Yep, clever blighters. Around here they tend to give up living with people
and go back to the wild. There will often be a squawking mass of them, and
the lead bird will often be shouting something like "who's a pretty boy
then?" or "woof woof" if the dog is in the yard. The dog really hates that
one - one day its going to get just a little bit too close to her and that
will be that :-)
That's funny ;)
When I lived in Monrovia, CA, there were feral conures, i think htey were
Chreey-Headed COnures - a flock used to visit myneighbor's qumkwat <?SP?>
every day. I put out water for 'em. What a riot! THey always put me into
a good mood :)
Well, I'm something of a Bird Nut, so I go for the bird stories.
I have a theory about this, tho' - people, including scientific types,
are generally amazed that birds can be so smart (esp. psitticines and
corvids, whcih can be slmost scary <g>), because the idea has always been
that intelligence is a function of the ration between brain mass and body
mass. Humans have a lot of brain mass in proportion to body mass, chimps
and various dolphins (including Orcas) come next, and so on.
But my theory is that this rule fails with birds, because, having evolved
to be specialized for flight, they do not have *redundancy*.
I got this idea from raising canaries, and saw what happened when a
couple suffered strokes (yeah, i got them checked).
With humans, and some mammals, strokes can be survived because ther eis
so much redundancy, so many parts of ht ebrain that aren't used a lot,
that, if one part of the brain is destroyed, other parts can take over
and restore much or even all of the lost function.
But birds cannot have redundancy, precisely *because* it leads to a heavy
brain - their heads would become too heavy to support, or at least,
tehy'd be off-balance during flight. I mean, they even evolved minimized
sex orgnas, as an adaptation for flight.
Therefore, much as some humans have been known to literally lose half, or
nearly half, their brains, and still function well, birds function with a
So, to put it one way, they can be "twice as smart" as one would
otherwise expect, given their brain size, and the rations o fbrain mass
to body mass.
That's my theory.
Like an African Grey I met once who could talk - and curse, in three
accents corresponding to its previous owners, recite numerous entire
nursery rhymes, make meaningful comments on daily events. Sounded human -
Minah birds easily learn to talk if they are hand-reared. I have noticed
that the local variety (now something of a pest in Australia) will
actually look right, left, right again before walking across a road.-
pity it seems to be so hard for humans.
An outstanding native in this regard is the Australian Magpie, often
thought to be a corvid, but apparently part of the Lark family. Eg they
can recognise cars and associate them with humans. Car A appears,
associated with human A, who is likely to start digging and watering (A my son the landscaper who used to bring stuff home, do a bit of afternoon
digging, disturb insects, mice etc). So when his car appears the sentry
bird sends out a call for all the others.
Sons B & C will feed the Magpie chick on the verandah, and don't care if
it makes a racket. Son A doesn't like the noise - so if son A is there,
the parents make sure the chick keeps quiet.
Not sure that is the current view - don't we give more weight to synapses
My sister (lives in Sydney) has also related some interesting stories of
clever (and mischevioyus ;) ) Australian birds.
Re: talking, the sound-imitation aspect is less surprising than it should
be - birds seem to have superb sound-recognition; recall that Penguins
can identify the call/voice of their specific mate even within teh din of
thousands of braying individuals.
Songbirds are born with a basic sens of how their songs should go, but
it's been shown that learnign plays a *vital* role in developing the
song. And, in the world of canary-breeding, people who enter
competitions for singing canaries (the American Singer being a specifc
sort of cross between a traditional type of English canary with a loud
voice but pleasing shape, and the Gareman HArtz Mountain and, IIRC, Dutch
Waterslager type(s)), competitors know that any canary's song, and
especially a champion singer's song, is much improved by playing melodic
music, with Tchaikovsky's symphonic works, back when I was raising them
at least, being a favorite.
IOW, just as with mammals, including humans, the *ability* to vocalize is
inborn, but there has to be actual learning for communication to occur.
One resualt is that geogrpahically-separated populations of songbir
species develop different "dialects".
Anyway, going back to parrots/psitticines, vocalizations are a major
foundation of flock cohesion, probably developed because parrots tend to
dwell in forested areas where visibility is not always reliable (which is
also why even tiny psitticines can be so *loud*).
Larger parrots also tend to mate for life. So "vocla bonding" is a
genetic trait. What is far more fascinating is the reasoning
capabilities of many birds, which can be almost creepy when it comes to
corvids (especially ravens) and larger parrots (especially the African
Grey). I'm not familiar with teh Australian Magpie, but in nature,
niches are always exploited, so we should not be surprised that a lark-
relative could fill the niche that corvids occupy on other continents ;)
(( Oops, I meant "ratio" - my typing is pathetic... ))
I think it depends upon the person. Some "scientists" are *so* obsessed
with being anti-antrhopomorphizing that they refuse to go beyond seeing
any/all animals as anything more than robots, and will simply deny (not
prove wrong - simply insult) any results that might indicate otherwise.
Some become ossified - at which point, they are no longer truely
scientists, because a Scientist looks at results and data and evidence,
even when they fly in the face of preferences and pet theories.
Also, I'm not sure that "synapses* is all that differnt from saying
I'm convinced that a huge part of the "surprisingly" high, i.e.
"mammalian", level of avian intellignce is a matter of mamallian
redundancy (which is well-known) versus avian NON-redundancy (nto
something I've ever read about anywhere, but based upon my observations
of birds which suffered stroke or other brain injury).
I suppose different peopl ehave different fascinations, but one of my own
far-too-numerous :( fascinations is with the biology, physiology,
structure, and so on, of birds - in a way, it *all* comes down to
structure - not only the skeleton and slek body-shapes, but also, brain
structure, neurons, the "lock-and-key" shapes that molecules take, which
in turn allows fo renzymatic functions and basically *all* biochemistry
of living things. OK, for that matter, the structure of Electron Shells,
which form the basis for atomic bonding and molecule formation...but
that's a different "Kris Blitherfest" <LOL!>
TOucans are also very messy, because they eat primarily fruit. Their poop
is, well, impressive.
Not as bad as eagles, tho'. When I was volunteering at the raptor
rescue'n'rehab place (back before returning home to the US), one of my
tasks was cvleaning the "cages", which, for large birds, were basically
8'X8' rooms painted with enamel. Nothing quite like the poop of a huge
bird that lives on fish...
After seeing, tho', how my "seed-eating" conure (sort-of the size of a
cockatiel, but chunkier) ATTACKS rare-to-medium beefsteak, all I can say is
that we're darn lucky that birds don't get bigger than they do... They're
"cute" and "funny" because they're small, but if their ferocity was scaled
up, we'd have, well, Tyrannosaours ;)
[link might wrap]
World's largest kingfisher.
One of our local birds, on the lampost outside the house, just let out a
call - just as well he/she doesn't do it in the middle of the night ...
Apparently the Kookaburra is very young in evolutionary terms - haven't
been around that long.
The dog classifies them as 'birds you don't mess with'.
At the office they perch on the window-sill and give you a good talking to.
Easy to take it as some sort of comment on you being there, until you
realise they are having a go at themselves - solar reflective glass.
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