The idea that birds are not particularly smart is so culturally ingrained that we refer to someone who is not intelligent as “bird brained.” But researchers have found that birds are actually incredibly smart and have some abilities that far surpass that of humans. The Clark's nutcracker can hide as many as 30,000 seeds over dozens of square miles and remember several months later where it put them. Mockingbirds and thrashers can store up to 2,000 different songs in a brain a thousand times smaller than ours. A pigeon knows where it's going, even thousands of miles from familiar territory, and the New Caledonian crow makes its own tools.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Genius of Birds, about birds' impressive skills and behaviors, many which resemble attributes that we usually reserve for humans.
Jennifer Ackerman has been writing about science and nature for 25 years. Her most recent book, The Genius of Birds (Penguin Press, April 2016), explores the intelligence of birds. She is a contributor to Scientific American, National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, and many other publications and her articles and essays have been included in several anthologies, among them, Best American Science Writing, The Nature Reader, Best Nature Writing, Flights of Imagination: Extraordinary Writings About Birds, and The Penguin Book of the Ocean. Jennifer’s work aims to explain and interpret science for a lay audience and to explore the riddle of humanity’s place in the natural world, blending scientific knowledge with imaginative vision.