Everything You Did Not Know About Birds

Well, lucky for all of us, a FIREPAW animal research contributor has sent over some scientific study findings compiled on birds.  Chances are high most readers do not know about some of these fun facts so we thought we would share them here:

animal avian beak bird

Pigeons can discriminate “good” and “bad” paintings by children.

Published in the U.S. National Institutes of Health, PubMed, of all places, this study investigated whether pigeons could be trained to discriminate between “bad” and “good” art.  More specifically, paintings that had been judged by humans as either “bad” or “good”.  Never mind that this study rests on the somewhat shaky foundation of human judgment of “good” and “bad” art (which is subjective as all get up), you can read a brief overview of the study and findings here.

Pigeons’ discrimination of paintings by Monet and Picasso

Also published in the U.S. National Institutes of Health, PubMed, this study investigated whether pigeons could be trained to discriminate between impressionists and cubists paintings.  This seems less about bird intelligence (long established in the animal sciences field) than the fact that there is apparently an endless supply of things with which researchers are willing to train birds.  You can read a brief overview of the study and findings here.

black bird

Friend or Foe? Crows Never Forget a Face, It Seems

This is a piece in the New York Times that appeared several years back highlighting the fact that birds recognize faces, or more accurately, masks of human faces and will act out towards those ‘faces’ that have trapped them in the past.

“To test the birds’ recognition of faces separately from that of clothing, gait and other individual human characteristics, Dr. Marzluff and two students wore rubber masks. He designated a caveman mask as “dangerous” and, in a deliberate gesture of civic generosity, a Dick Cheney mask as “neutral.” <Several people at FIREPAW take issue with this “neutral” designation.> Researchers in the dangerous mask then trapped and banded seven crows on the university’s campus in Seattle.

“In the months that followed, the researchers and volunteers donned the masks on campus, this time walking prescribed routes and not bothering crows.

The crows had not forgotten. They scolded people in the dangerous mask significantly more than they did before they were trapped, even when the mask was disguised with a hat or worn upside down. The neutral mask provoked little reaction.

The effect has not only persisted, but also multiplied over the past two years. Wearing the dangerous mask on one recent walk through campus, Dr. Marzluff said, he was scolded by 47 of the 53 crows he encountered, many more than had experienced or witnessed the initial trapping. The researchers hypothesize that crows learn to recognize threatening humans from both parents and others in their flock.”

You can read more details about the study here.

animal avian beak bird

25 Things You Might Not Know About the Birds in Your Backyard

A collection of some super interesting (including several little known) fun facts about birds like:

1. They Have a Curious Desire to Cover Themselves in Ants

2. Some Hummingbirds Weigh Less Than a Penny

3. Woodpeckers Peck With Purpose

4. They’ll Attack Their Reflection

5. Pigeons Are Art Critics (Thankfully, you are now keenly aware of this one)

6. They Can Nap in Mid-Air (Interesting)

7. There’s a Reason Their Poop is White

8. Bassian Thrushes Use Farts To Hunt Prey

9. Canyon Wrens Build Patios for Their Nests

10. They Could Be Competitive Eaters

11. Hummingbirds Can’t Walk

12. Not All Beaks are Created Equal

13. Little Blue Herons Have a Built-In Grooming Comb

14. Crows Can Recognize Faces (Again, you are now already in-the-know)

15. Killdeer Fake Injuries to Fool Predators

16. Blue Jays are Helping Restore Oak Trees

17. Northern Cardinals are Early Risers

18. There’s a Reason They Don’t Fall Off Branches While Sleeping

19. Blue Jays Can Mimic The Sound of a Hawk

20. Blue Jays Aren’t Actually Blue

21. Robins Have a Sweet Tooth

22. They Know How to Cool Off

23. Some of Them Use Tools (Old news for FIREPAW readers)

24. Hummingbirds are Always Starving

25. They’ll Never be Movie Stars

You can read brief, at-a-glance explanations for all of these fun facts here.