Today while snowshoeing, I came across a bird’s tiny nest. The nest sits in a bush that stands barely half a meter (about two feet) from the ground. The nest is approximately 5 cm (2” high) and the same in diameter. The bird’s nest is currently filled with snow, yet it remains firm. The nest survived yesterday’s ice-rain. It survived last week’s strong winds. It survived last month’s bitter cold. Still, it remains perfect. Its weave of grass and twigs holds strong. Its circular shape isn’t bent or damaged by the storms. The perfect nest sits perfectly in a perfect place.
In summer, the nest is hidden by a thick spread of leaves that cover the bush. In winter, the nest is unprotected. Yet it survives. Two thoughts—first, what kind of bird built the nest and knew how to construct it to perfection? Next, when comparing avian-brain with man’s intelligence, how do we rank?
I’m still trying to find out what kind of bird built the nest. It’s been easier to learn about a bird’s brain that knows how to create such perfection— Source
Birds consistently have more neurons packed into their small brains than are stuffed into mammalian or even primate brains;
Birds can manufacture and use tools;
Birds use insight to solve problems;
Birds make inferences about cause-effect relationships;
Birds recognize themselves in a mirror;
- Birds plan for future needs, among other cognitive skills previously considered the exclusive domain of primates;
Birds are organized along quite similar lines to those of primates;
Birds can perform complex behaviors because birds’ forebrains contain a lot more neurons than anyone had previously thought—as many as in mid-sized primates;
The neurons in avian brains are much smaller and more densely packed than those in mammalian brains… Avian brains, with the same or greater forebrain neuron counts than primates with much larger brains, can potentially provide the birds with much higher “cognitive power” per pound than mammals.
Well, there it is! We humans may not be the smartest creatures on the block after all! Brain size doesn’t necessarily mean more smarts!
When comparing bird-smarts to human-smarts, we humans often have to be reminded to use “insight to solve problems”, be reminded to understand that our actions produce outcomes. Are we planning for future needs like birds do, or are we so caught up in day-to-day activities that when the future happens, we scramble to survive? The expression, ‘bird-brain’, once a slander about someone’s lack of intelligence, may now be a welcomed compliment. So, to indulge in a few avian idioms…
… Let’s talk turkey! A little birdie told me that it’s time to be as graceful as a swan and get all my ducks in a row. Some may think me a rare bird or perhaps crazy as a loon, but I’ll use my eagle eye and plan for the future—build my nest egg—a goal that may ruffle someone’s feathers. I’m no spring chicken, so according to some, preparing for the future is for the birds—a wild good chase. But, I’m gonna spread my wings even though I might appear to be as silly as a goose!
I’d rather use the neurons I have and be ready for what’s around the corner than be chicken-livered and try towing it when life throws me curve-balls! It’s time to take a bird’s eye-view of what’s going on in my world. I want to be as wise as an owl, be the early bird that catches the worm, to feather my nest so it survives the storms of life. I want to build friendships with other birds of like feather, then flock together to help each other along the way. I’ll put a feather in my cap and take someone under my wing. I’ll show him or her how rewarding life can be if we work towards the future by ‘getting down’ to using the tools that we have, by using insight to solve problems, and by the flocking together of our bird-brain capacities. Why not be happy as a lark, free as a bird, proud as a peacock?
It’s okay to be a bird-brain, to try out my wings and build my life’s nest that is not only worthy of the appreciation of others, but that is solid, that can bear the weight of winter storms, that remains whole when all is said and done. It’s my swan song. I’m left with goose bumps at the thought!
Further Reading ABOUT BIRD-BRAINS:
Chodosh, S. (17 June 2016). NEUROSCIENCE – Bird Brains Have as Many Neurons as Some Primates. Retrieved 31 January 2017, from Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bird-brains-have-as-many-neurons-as-some-primates/
Timmer, J. (17 June 2016). SIZE ISN’T EVERYTHING — Bird brains are dense with neurons — A possible indication of why our feathered friends are so damn smart. Retrieved 31 January 2017, from arsTECHNICA: https://arstechnica.com/science/2016/06/bird-brains-are-densewith-neurons/
Vanderbilt University/Salisbury, D. (13 June 2016). Bird brain? Ounce for ounce birds have significantly more neurons in their brains than mammals or primates. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from ScienceDaily-Your source for the latest research news: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160613153411.htm