Saturday, April 15, 2006

diagram of a bird brain

Scientists have argued for decades over whether wild creatures, including birds, show genuine intelligence.

Some still consider the human mind to be unique, with animals capable of only the simplest mental processes. But a new generation of scientists believe that creatures, including birds, can solve problems by insight and even learn by example, as human children do. Birds can even talk in a meaningful way.

- from an essay entitled Bird Brains by Gareth Huw Davies

My brother and I have been watching David Attenborough’s awsome documentary Life of Birds. Even if you’re not super into ornithology, this series is fascinating. I’m not a “birder” by any means, nor have I ever been particularly interested in birds. I am, however, extremely interested in life forms other than humans: how they work socially, individually, and how they experience and deal with their existence. I love learning about the similarities between them and us, not because I want to anthropomorphize them, but because I think we have a lot more in common than most consider. As I like to remind my students: at the most basic level, we too are just animals.

If you're interested, you can read more about bird intelligence here, here, and here.