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“Bird Brain”–No Longer An Epithet September 25, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Animal Intelligence, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Science.

We used to call people who were egregiously deficient in mental acuity a “bird brain.” But recent research suggests this epithet is no longer appropriate.

“A nutcracker can remember the precise location of hundreds of different food storage spots. And crows in Japan have learned how to get people to crack walnuts for them: They drop them near busy intersections, then retrieve the smashed nuts when the traffic light turns red.”

The article calls this “part of a growing recognition of the genius of birds.” I don’t know if this qualifies as genius but it is not bad for a bird.

At any rate, we need a new epithet. I guess “dumb as a tree” still works. Is there any research on the intelligence of trees?



1. tinkytoes - September 26, 2007

One time I saw a tree backhand somebody because he was trying to chop it down.

2. Huan - September 26, 2007

If trees can give pimp slaps, who knows what else they can do??
But ya this topic always intrigued me, not really birds but animals in general, their intelligence is often surprising.

3. Nina Rosenstand - October 2, 2007

Recent research into the intelligence of ravens and crows has shown that they are able to make decisions based on general concepts and visualizing possibilities not yet experienced, not merely on trial-and-error. And let us not forget Alex, the African Grey parrot, who died recently at what appears to be a young age for parrots, without having reached his full potential. Alex was able to hold several abstract concepts in his mind simultaneously, and combine phonems into new words—so was Alex a genius, or are we just less likely to discover/acknowledge animal intelligence if it doesn’t resemble human rationality?

4. Huan - October 3, 2007

I would like to think that many human rationality theories are simply how the natural world operates, and that idealism and perspectivism alike can only get to a point that these ideas of logic and rationality are universal ideas and perspectives.
But if this is only how the human mind operates, we wouldn’t be able to find out otherwise would we?
How could we possibly detect that an animal does not operate under the principle of non-contradiction, if us humans are only able to operate under it to obtain any knowledge at all? I don’t even even the most abstract eastern philosophies can truly defy it, or things like probability, or math.

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