Cognitive Capabilities

Birds & Blooms|April/May 2020

Cognitive Capabilities
Think birds lack smarts? Think again!
By Kelsey Roseth

Nature lovers have a fondness for their backyard birds that is often reserved for dogs, cats and other pets, even though feathered friends tend to come and go with the seasons. Turns out, birds are more like pets than you think, as the same ones often show up at the same feeders year after year.

“People really underestimate the cognitive abilities of animals in general, which is their ability to perceive, integrate and use information,” says Carrie Branch, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. She studies communication and cognition in birds, with a special emphasis on chickadees. “They learn. And to learn, you have to remember things. They learn from their experiences and remember just like people do.”

Watch mountain chickadees flit back and forth from feeders, collecting extra seed for winter.

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April/May 2020