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3 Recent Examples of Bird Intelligence

If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ve read the countless ways birds are intelligent—from a study that says they’re as smart as a 7-year-old to a test revealing pigeons have complex math skills.

In the last month, the argument that “bird brain” should forever be used as a compliment just got stronger. Three recent news stories demonstrated the intelligence of birds. Here they are.

Barn Swallows have mastered automatic doors.

When automatic doors were installed inside a parking garage, the Barn Swallows nesting inside the garage were either trapped inside or outside. A lesser creature would have been stuck under such circumstances, but after some trial and error, the swallows were able to learn how to open the automatic doors on command.

The video below shows just how aware of the situation the birds are. You first see them fly straight toward the sensor, turn back so they clear the door and then safely fly inside. Birds 1, World  0.

Fork-tailed Drongos mimic warning calls to scare off other animals.

Trickery is no stranger in the animal kingdom, but the Fork-tailed Drongos of Africa is dubbed “the pathological liar of the animal kingdom,” according to a recent article.

The article states that the bird deceives other birds and animals by mimicking alarm calls made by other animals that warn of an approaching predator. Then as the animals disperse, this bird swoops in and takes the food the fleeing animals leave behind.

They can mimic many different bird species and even meerkats. Since animals know the warning call of other animals, a false alarm can actually make a variety of animals run from predators.

Here’s a fun quote in the article from evolutionary biologist Amanda Ridley.

“One could argue that the strategy of the drongo to steal food from others seems very dishonorable in human standards. But, yes, if it has found such a crafty way to catch food, which is usually much larger than the food items it catches itself, then we cannot help but admire this clever little bird’s adaptiveness,” Ridley added.

Mama Superb Fairywrens teach secret passwords to their eggs.

603px-Female_superb_fairy_wren-edit1Can you imagine someone else trying to sneakily replace their child with yours in an attempt for you to raise them as your own?

That’s a reality many birds have to face, but scientists recently found that Superb Fairywrens have an answer to this problem: names.

Basically, the mothers will sing a specific call or name if you will, so the baby bird knows how to get its mother’s attention. If the baby bird does not know the song when it hatches, the suspicious fairy wren will leave because that means it’s likely a cuckoo.

It is a pretty bizarre habit (instead of just being able to look at the bird and tell it’s a cuckoo or other species), but it’s actually very clever.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.