Animal Intelligence Research Paper (By: Iris Johnson)
Why Bird Brain Should be a Compliment!
“Birdbrain! Birdbrain!” Someone shouts the insult to you as you walk down the street. At first you feel annoyed and upset, that person is literally calling you stupid, right? Not really. Stop and consider the corvid family. Corvids are birds including Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and even Bluejays. They are famed for being intelligent birds, showing problem-solving abilities, even using mirrors for their benefit. Some corvids, like magpies, can mimic sounds like parrots and learn human words and phrases. Corvids have been observed playing and experimenting. They have shown to have emotional attachments to the people who raise them. Of course, we cannot speculate an animal is smart or daft just from a few tricks. A dog could sit, stay, and roll,
but the same mutt could also be terrified of a yellow rubber duck.
How intelligent are corvids, really?
Researchers and spectators have witnessed the New Caledonian crow poking grubs in holes with twigs, forcing the grubs to bite onto the twig so it can pull it out. Others take strips of serrated leaves to hook insects out of their holes. They have been observed even making the tools, taking twigs and carefully pulling out and bending certain parts to make a sharp and functional hook to yank the grub out! Not even chimpanzees have been observed (yet) making such intricate tools. Such tool craftsmanship must take up a powerful brain!
Mirror, mirror, on the wall! Who is the most intelligent bird of them all? The crow, maybe! Speaking of mirrors, New Caledonian Crows have again been observed being smarty pants! Scientists have placed four crows in front of mirrors. At first, the crows started to freak out at the weirdo copying their every move, but when they went behind the mirror they realized that it wasn't another crow- it was their reflection! Once the researchers noticed this, they put a treat inside a box. The crows could only see the treat if they saw it in the mirror- and all of them did indeed realize that the treat was not inside the mirror, but where the mirror reflected! This is not only self-recognition, but tool use as well! Another amazing feat from the New Caledonian Crows.
Besides New Caledonian Crows, crows and ravens in NYC have proven to pass down information to their chicks, and recognizing human faces. Researchers tried to see if crows could recognize human faces. One person put on a mask and spooked the crows. He kept doing this until the crows all scolded and screeched whenever they saw him. This did not work with other people who haven't harassed the crows, and when the masked person hides and takes off the mask and returns, the crows react as normal. No scolding, no negative response, just the usual neutral but still wary reaction. Year after year, when someone passes by wearing the mask, the crows go haywire! This kept on going for years, proving that crows tell each other and their chickies about information and can recognize and remember the faces of humans.
A lot of people abhor magpies for their screechy screams, but besides squawking, magpies, not unlike parrots, can mimic human speech! If trained as a little chick, Magpies can pick up words and phrases in a human language! Their talking skills aren't as spiffy as a parrot, and most can't learn tons and tons of words, but it still is amazing! A specific magpie named George has learned many words. She can say things from “What does a duck say, quack quack?” to “Come here!” She says the words fluently and fast, one phrase after another. Magpies must have good memory and vocal skills to be able to remember and repeat things like those!
Corvids are an absolutely amazing family of birds! From their speedy chatters to facial recognition, and their use of mirrors and sticks as tools is simply amazing! I think it's pretty fair to say that they are one of the most intelligent family of birds. So, next time, be proud when someone calls you a bird brain, and take a pause to marvel at your local smart-alecks, the corvids!
I'm Iris. A 10 year old ('turned 11 last March 2018) who got lots of reflections and views on life as I experience it. I love to read topics about the world around us, other people's ideas and opinions, and just about anything that I'm curious about and interested in.