Bird Fact Friday: the Baltimore Oriole (as seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Baltimore Oriole, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • This bird is melodious, canopy-dwelling, and strikingly plumaged.
  • They are often heard in the spring in Eastern parks and backyards, or high in deciduous trees in open woodlands and edges.
  • They are medium-sized songbirds, ranging from yellow-orange to a brilliant deep orange, with gray or black heads and backs, wing bars, and long curved bills.
  • These acrobatic feeders prefer fruit, flowers, and insects. They also may be attracted to feeders with cut oranges and bananas.
  • Baltimore Orioles live in sock-like hanging nests, which are woven over a period of a week or two by the female, often in an American Elm, maple, or cottonwood tree.
  • They have a lifespan of up to 12 years.
  • Population: 12 million and declining.

Have you seen (or heard) a Baltimore Oriole?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Bird Fact Friday – the Indigo Bunting (as seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Indigo Bunting, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • This bird is vocal, edge-dwelling and active
  • They are common in summer in the East and the Southwest in brushy edges and fields
  • They are small, short-tailed, and sturdy.
  • Recognizable by their stout conical bill; males are bright blue, females brown.
  • These birds eat insects, seeds, and berries.
  • They are frequently found in concealed nest sites close to the ground.
  • They remain solitary in breeding season but may flock in migration.
  • They have a lifespan of up to 8 years.
  • Population: 28 million and decreasing.

Have you seen (or heard) a Barred Owl?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Bird Fact Friday: the Barred Owl (as seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Barred Owl, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • This owl is large, sedentary, and dark-eyed. It is also loudly vocal.
  • Originally an Eastern bird, this owl has spread to the Pacific Northwest, sometimes competing with Spotted Owls.
  • They are mottled brown, without ear tufts, and have short, rounded tails.
  • Barred Owls are often found perched in large trees in mature mixed forests, often near water. These areas are more likely to have cavities for nesting and a diverse range of prey, especially small mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates.
  • Pairs likely mate for life, and use largely unmodified cavities for nesting.
  • They are sometimes predated by Great-horned Owls
  • They have a lifespan of up to 24 years.
  • Population: 3 million and increasing.

Have you seen (or heard) a Barred Owl?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Bird Fact Friday: The Eastern Phoebe (as seen on BirdGenie)!

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Eastern Phoebe, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • These birds are tail-wagging, solitary, active flycatchers.
  • They’re common in the East in warmer months, and are early spring migrants.
  • The Eastern Phoebe’s are medium-sized and large-headed, with gray-brown back and buffy or white underparts.
  • They nearly always wag their tails when perched.
  • Typically, they perch low and fly out to catch insects, which are its primary food source (along with occasional seeds and berries).
  • Their nests are typically made of mud and vegetation, often on human structures with ledges, niches, walls, or other solid bases.
  • They have a lifespan of up t o 10 years.
  • Population: 32 million and stable.

Have you seen (or heard) an Eastern Phoebe?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Bird Fact Friday: The Blue Jay (As Seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Blue Jay, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • These are social, intelligent, alarm birds.
  • They’re common in the Eastern US and Canada.
  • They prefer forest edges, parks, and towns, especially near oaks, as acorns are a favorite food along with other nuts and insects.
  • Blue jays are large, bright blue, and black and white crested.
  • These birds can carry up to five acorns, and can cache thousands in a season.
  • They have a variety of calls, usually given while perched, including mimicry of Red-shouldered and Red-tailed hawks.
  • Up to twenty percent of all ages of Blue Jays migrate each year, but the mechanism is not well understood.
  • They often mate for life.
  • Their lifespan is up to 17 years.
  • Population: 13 million and slightly declining.

Have you seen (or heard) an the Blue Jay?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

Bird Fact Friday: The American Goldfinch (as seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the American Goldfinch, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • They are acrobatic, gregarious, and vocal
  • They’re common throughout much of North America in weedy fields, riparian areas, farms, roadsides and backyards
  • They’re small and bright yellow with a black cap in the summer; drab olive and patchy in the winter; unstreaked, with wing bards and a notched tail
  • Often occuring in flocks; buoyant, undulating flight style
  • They have a conical bill which is adapted to seed eating; diet is exclusively vegetarian
  • They favor sunflower and thistle seed at feeders
  • These birds are late nesters in June and July, to take advantage of seeding milkweed, thistle, and other plants
  • They often call in flight, with a bouncy and undulating call style
  • Their lifespan is up to ten years
  • Population: 42 million and stable

Have you seen (or heard) an American Goldfinch?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

 

Bird Fact Friday: The Cedar Waxwing (as seen on BirdGenie!)

This week’s Bird Fact Friday highlights the Cedar Waxwing, as seen on BirdGenie. Here are some interesting facts about the bird:

  • They are flock-oriented, colorful fruit eaters
  • They’re common throughout much of North America in woodlands and open fields, parks and edges, especially near streams
  • They’re medium-sized, slender, crested, large-headed and short-billed. They have brownish heads, chest and back basding to gray, black masks, yellow tail tips, and red spots on their wings. Their smooth tones almost looks airbrushed
  • The red wing tips are waxy secretions, whose function is not known
  • They’re often first detected by their high, thin cals
  • They’re one of the few North American fruit specialists, only occasionally supplementing diet with insects
  • Planting native trees like dogwood or serviceberry may attract waxwings
  • They have a lifespan of up to 8 years
  • Population: ~52 million and stable

Have you seen (or heard) a waxwing?

 

BirdGenie

BirdGenie™ is a breakthrough app that helps anyone with an Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet accurately identify birds in the backyard, local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! Just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie™ helps you identify the species. The app’s highly developed sound identification ability and expert matching system enable bird enthusiasts to achieve an accuracy unheard of in the birding field. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the birds around them.

BirdGenie™ includes up to two hundred vocalization types for one hundred species: literally all of the birds likely to be encountered in a backyard or local park, or on a hike, in North America at any time of the year. And the app is easy to use. Just point your smartphone or tablet at a bird, and tap the screen when the bird starts singing. The app’s automatic pre-record feature ensures that you won’t miss the beginning of the song and BirdGenie’s™ patented, highly accurate expert system matches the recording to the closest species. The app’s sophisticated noise-reduction feature means that even in noisy environments, where there is conversation or traffic, you can discover what bird you’re listening to.

Beyond specifying a bird species, BirdGenie™ provides sample songs and spectrograms to compare with your own recording and to guarantee a confident match. The app also includes pictures of all plumages, information about habitat and behavior, and links to further reading. It even has 3-D models for some of the species so you can match different views of a bird. You can share your recordings, photos, and matches with friends and other users, and if you’re so inclined, you can anonymously share recordings to a scientific database to help researchers learn about birdsong variations. No internet connection is required for anything but sharing, making the program accessible everywhere.

Perfect for anyone who wants to know what birds are singing around them, BirdGenie™ takes bird identification to a whole new awesome level.

With BirdGenie™ you can:

  • Quickly identify most birds just by recording their songs
  • Look at vivid images of the bird—some in 3-D!
  • Listen to samples of the bird’s various songs and compare them with your recording
  • Keep a log of all your recordings
  • Share your recordings, matches, and photos with friends and family
  • Browse the built-in catalog to learn about local species, their other songs, their habits and diet, and much more
  • Use the app anywhere, as no internet connection is required!

Important features of BirdGenie™:

  • The matching expert system beats anything in the market today
  • Easy-to-use guided user interface
  • Effective noise-reduction system helps users make identifications in less-than-ideal environments
  • Complete species accounts with multiple photos for all plumage types (some with 3-D models)
  • Comprehensive spectrograms (voiceprints of songs)

Technical Specifications:

  • Requires iOS 10 or later. Compatible with all iPhones after iPhone 6 including 7, 8, X and iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch.
  • Requires Android 5.0 and above. Compatible with most common Android phones and tablets.

 

Bird Fact Friday: Visual Communication for Birds

Adapted from page 70 of Bird Brain:

It can’t have escaped your attention that many birds are wonderfully colored. A trip to Papua New Guinea would allow you to experience the greatest range of multicolored plumage in the animal kingdom in the form of birds of paradise. But why such vivid colors when they also announce a bird’s presence to predators?

A brightly colored male manakin dances for a prospective partner. He will have practiced this dance for years before ever performing it for a female. Despite all his best efforts, if he doesn’t achieve the standard the female requires, she’ll reject his advances and go looking elsewhere.

The simple answer is advertising, not to predators but to potential partners—visual display as a method for attracting the best mate. From a male-dominated human perspective, it may seem somewhat surprising that male birds have the brightest feathers, not to mention the most beautiful voices. But in the avian world it is definitely the males who are the showoffs, and the females who are the drab wallflowers standing in the background. However, because males are trying to attract the females, the latter have all the power, as they get to choose or reject any male that puts himself forward. Moreover, unlike human sexual politics, they don’t need to give a reason!

Other male birds do not develop the natural fashion show of the birds of paradise or some tropical pheasants. Birds such as peacocks produce exaggerated body ornaments with a function that is similar to human tattoos or piercings. In some instances, these extremely long tails or head furniture can make it difficult to fly, even impossible in the case of peacocks with their elaborate and beautiful tails. However, some birds do not develop their bodies in order to show off; rather the way they act is what gets the girls. Manakins, for example, take over seven years to learn to dance in coordinated teams, using lots of different dance styles, but only the dance master, not his apprentices, eventually gets to mate. His trainees only mate once their boss has retired and they start to work with their own dance troupes. Other birds, such as sage or black grouse, dance in a so-called lek, which is an arena in which many males can strut their stuff in front of interested females. Black grouse will bop their wattles, while making short runs, with the movement making a resonating sound. The females choose the male with the most impressive sound and motion combo.

One of the problems with being brightly colored or using dance moves as forms of sexual advertisement is that the recipient of your message has to be able to see you. Unfortunately, so can most predators. So why do it? Because their ability to survive despite the danger may be a reflection of good genes and health and is used as a yardstick by which females can assess their quality as mates. A good dancer is also likely to be a good dancer because his father was a good dancer, or because he is in good health. Some traits, such as long or large tails, could be perceived as handicaps, physically preventing those birds from evading predators. Yet females assess these traits positively, figuring that the guy with the large tail that survives long enough to father offspring should have excellent genes to be passed on to his offspring.

Bird Brain
An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
By Nathan Emery with a foreword by Frans de Waal

Birds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.

Bird Fact Friday – What Do Bird Brains Do?

Adapted from pages 20-21 of Bird Brain:

Brains are a means of interacting with the world, receiving information from different senses— sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste—which is then interpreted by being compared with stored representations of information, either held in memory, such as when recognizing a familiar face, or learned through repeated experiences, such as knowing how to ride a bicycle. Brains make decisions about how to react to information, ignoring most of what is received, only attending to that which is (biologically) relevant. Decisions are made in the context in which information is currently experienced, as well as based on previous experiences, on current motivational or emotional states, and on social context. Once a decision has been made, an action plan is initiated leading to a specific behavior.

For birds, this decision may be how to react to a vocalization. If this is an alarm call (presented by a reliable, nearby source), then the appropriate response is to move quickly in the opposite direction to the call, namely away from a predator. If a potential mate produces the call, inviting sexual behavior, then an appropriate response would be to move closer to the source of the call. In either case, the brain interprets the content of the information (good or bad) and directs the body to act appropriately (approach or retreat). 

Birds often make decisions at much quicker speeds than mammals because of the environments they occupy and the vagaries of their lives, oft en living at high speed in flight. By contrast, a typical mammal, such as a rat, scurries around its environment but is dependent on smell not sight. Rats don’t travel quickly and don’t need to make rapid decisions. Monkeys make faster decisions as they travel rapidly through a more crowded environment, oft en swinging through the trees or being chased by a predator. Primates rely predominantly on sight and sound, both rapid routes for communicating information. Yet, primates do not have to process information as rapidly as a typical flying bird living in a complex three-dimensional world, flooded with color, and sources of danger and information. Birds seem to make these decisions with ease, yet the questions remain: how do they do it and what parts of their brains are used to process this information? Is there something about how the avian brain is wired up that helps birds process information more rapidly than other creatures?

Bird Brain
An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
By Nathan Emery with a foreword by Frans de Waal

Birds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.

Bird Fact Friday: New Thinking on the Avian Brain

Adapted from pages 17 of Bird Brain:

The 1990s saw a flurry of interesting studies on avian behaviors thought to be uniquely human or only seen in great apes. Gavin Hunt found that New Caledonian crows made two different types of tools—Pandanus leaf and hook stick—that were used for different tasks. Irene Pepperberg revealed previously unheard-of linguistic abilities in a language-trained African grey parrot called Alex. Nicky Clayton and Tony Dickinson developed a method based on caching to discover that Western scrub jays thought about specific past events, so-called episodic-like memory.

In parallel to the exciting findings in avian cognition were findings from avian neuroscience. Bird brains were found to do things not seen in mammalian brains that could explain how birds could achieve identifiable cognitive feats with brains much smaller than mammals. Bird brains could support multitasking, with one hemisphere controlling one behavior (such as looking out for predators) while the other hemisphere controlled a different behavior simultaneously (such as looking for food). Adult brains could produce new neurons (neurogenesis)—either seasonally, as in the case of the hippocampus or song control system, or when needed, such as remembering caching events.

Edinger’s earlier ideas on the avian brain were questioned by studies on neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, evolution, and development with the result that in 2004 a complete change was made to the naming of the parts of the avian brain, reflecting a new understanding of how it had evolved. No longer was the avian forebrain seen as consisting of the striatum; rather the forebrain evolved from a pallium shared with ancestral reptilian and mammalian cousins. These new findings placed the new study of avian cognition on a strong foundation—so much so that more recent findings suggest the term “birdbrain” should now be used as a compliment not an insult!

Bird Brain
An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
By Nathan Emery with a foreword by Frans de Waal

Birds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.

Bird Fact Friday: The Evolution of Avian Intelligence

Adapted from pages 14-15 of Bird Brain:

Despite there being almost 10,000 species of birds, only a few have yet to be studied for their cognitive abilities. Some, based on their lifestyles and relative brain size, such as this woodpecker (left), hornbill, and falcon (right), are likely to also demonstrate smart behavior in intelligence tests.

The species lived in splendid isolation on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean until contact with European sailors in the seventeenth century led to its extinction in just a few decades. Although the relatives of dodos (pigeons and doves) are not thought of as the smartest of birds, can we put the dodo’s demise down to its own stupidity? Certainly, having no natural predators and not having had much contact with humans before the seventeenth century, they had little or no reason to fear us. If dodos had had the capacity for rapid learning, perhaps they might have adapted quickly and learned to escape their human hunters, but they were up against the most efficient and effective killer the planet has ever seen. Given the dodo’s clumsy body design—large and flightless—and that it had nowhere to run, it’s clear that dodos were in the wrong place at the wrong time, though being stupid didn’t help! 

More than 50 percent of birds are members of the songbird family or passerines. In fact, most of the birds we encounter every day in our gardens and parks are passerines, including sparrows, thrushes, finches, titmice, robins, blackbirds, and crows. Although not all members of this family are melodious singers, as anyone who has experienced the loud cawing of a crow will testify, all learn vocalizations specific to their species and, indeed, have evolved a special brain circuit to do so. This ability, rare in the animal kingdom, shares properties with human language which will be examined in Chapter 3.

Although birds have been studied with respect to the structure and function of their brains, their learning, and cognition for over a century, very little is known about the cognitive abilities of more than a tiny proportion of species. Most species are not kept in laboratories and thus are unavailable for experimental study, so our best ideas about their intelligence are only guesses based on their relative brain size (in comparison to their body size; see Chapter 1), their diet, social system, habitat, and life history (how long the species lives and how long the young take to develop to independence). These clues help build a picture of what these species may need their brains for—finding food, relating to others, building a home—but without being able to run experiments the picture can only be a sketch. Nonetheless, this technique is still useful for making predictions as to how intelligence may have evolved, specifically in those species we would expect to be the intellectual heavyweights. Three groups of birds— woodpeckers, hornbills, and falcons—possess some or all of the traits displayed by species known to be smart (The Clever Club; Chapter 1) but have yet to be tested. All three groups are outside the passerines but are closely related, so any cognitive skills they may have are likely to have evolved independently (that is, not from a common ancestor).

Bird Brain
An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
By Nathan Emery with a foreword by Frans de Waal

Birds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.

Bird Fact Friday: What is intelligence?

Adapted from page 12 of Bird Brain:

What do we mean when we say that an animal is intelligent? Scientists mean something specific by intelligence, especially in creatures without language: the ability to flexibly solve novel problems using cognition rather than mere learning and instinct.

Intelligence in action is the application of cognition outside of the context in which it evolved. An animal may have evolved a specific skill that enables it to deal with a particular ecological problem, such as predicting the behavior of group members or distinguishing large from small quantities, but it cannot use these same skills to address different problems for which the skills did not evolve. However, the flexibility to be able to transfer those skills is probably what distinguishes intelligent from cognitive species.

Merlina is one of the ravens at the Tower of London. She has formed a strong bond with Chris Skaife, the Raven master, but also likes carrying around sticks and even plays dead to the delight of the crowds who come to see her antics. Photo credit: Chris Skaife

Cognition refers to the processing, storage, and retention of information across different contexts. In the wild, birds use cognition to process information, enabling them to survive but not necessarily to solve problems. A pigeon that distinguishes foods from non-foods does not need to stretch its mental muscles as much as a crow that creates and modifies a tool to reach a grub hidden inside a tree trunk, fashioning the tool to the correct length in order to reach the treat. Both are challenges related to procuring food, but one requires a wider range of skills than the other.

One important consideration is that intelligence is not a mechanism. A specific behavior can be perceived as intelligent based on its outcome—such as the solving of a problem—but that does not mean that this solution is achieved using similar processes to those used by a human. The animal may employ sophisticated cognitive processes—perhaps using imagination (thinking about objects, events, and actions not currently available to perception), or forward planning (prospection), or requiring an understanding of how events (actions) are related to their consequences (causal reasoning)— and these cognitive acts may be variously deployed in different contexts. But they may also be the result of trial-and-error learning (learning the best course of action after repeated experiences of the same event) or simpler cognitive processes for which that particular species has evolved a solution. The specific mechanisms underlying animal behavior are frequently the object of controversy and debate, especially in creatures more distantly related to us. This book attempts to present different perspectives on what may underlie seemingly intelligent bird behavior: from instinct, learning, and cognition to imagination, forethought, and insight.

Bird Brain
An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
By Nathan Emery with a foreword by Frans de Waal

Birds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.