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My, that bird has a large head...

Birds doing best boast biggest brains, according to research supported by the U.K.'s Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds. The research focused largely on farmland birds, where birds with brains that were relatively large compared to their bodies (such as the great tit, blue tit, and magpie) were more numerous than birds with smaller brains (such as the corn bunting, tree sparrow, and grey partridge). This might imply that house sparrows and starlings are geniuses, but they weren't mentioned. (Sorry, altivo.)

Geeky note: The tree sparrow mentioned in the article (Passer montanus) is not the same as the American tree sparrow (Spizella arborea). I wasn't aware of that before. The magpie mentioned in the article is known as the black-billed magpie in America.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
altivo
Sep. 14th, 2005 07:29 pm (UTC)
I'd question their measurement of "doing best" if it was based only on population. Actually, in my area, the largest population varies a lot by time of year (surprise!) but I'd say that crows, bluejays, and mourning doves are among the larger groups, and they are intelligent, regardless of brain to body mass ratio. However, the largest groups are certainly the common sparrow (non-native, maybe that's why they weren't counted, nor the starlings) followed by common grackles, juncos, and house finches. None of those tits are found here in any number, and we don't have magpies.

Sparrows and starlings are not very bright in my opinion. Their successful population strategy doesn't consist of outwitting anyone, but rather of reproducing frequently and in large clutches. Even if the cats eat a few of them, there are still plenty to go around.
songdogmi
Sep. 14th, 2005 07:48 pm (UTC)
I think they're going on "best" equals "increasing or stable numbers", since their examples of the species that aren't doing well were cited as declining significantly. Also, I think the study focused on farmlands in the U.K., which explains why they were focusing on tits and magpies -- in the southern Great Lakes they probably would've mentioned the equivalent species, chickadees and jays. (Although that magpie is common in the States, if you go a bit farther west toward the Rockies.)

The gray partridge they mention is the same species as is found here, but it has been declining here too, I think -- I haven't seen but one and that was thirty years ago. (Maybe it was an introduced species here? I don't remember now.)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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