Big Brains Mean More Smarts?
I could lead you on and make you think it might not be true. Fact is, the latest research from Cornell shows that birds who adapt most readily to human-changed landscapes do, in fact, have larger brains.
Researchers found that birds that colonized in urban areas did have relatively larger bigger brains than non-urban dwellers. According to the article published in the Project Feederwatch Blog, Orioles, dippers, pipits, wagtails, and buntings have relatively small brains and have mostly been unable to adapt to city life. Whereas corvids (crows and jays), tits (the chickadee family), nuthatches, wrens, and kinglets, on the other hand, have relatively large brains and often survive in cities. These findings suggest that larger brains enable birds to figure out how to survive in new environments.
The research goes on to suggest that birds with larger brains will, as the Earth becomes more and more populated and urbanized, begin to “win out” (my words, not theirs) over their smaller-brained counterparts.
This particular study was done in two countries, examining 82 species in 22 families of birds, so it isn’t globally conclusive.We have seen particular species of birds practically wiped out because of reduced or ruined habitat. In these situations, the habitat area was so specific, that the birds refused to nest anywhere else.
If I use a pigeon as an example, this is a bird that is most prevalent of all in big cities. Large brain? It’s extremely likely? Ability to adapt to urban life? Most assuredly. But seemingly smart? I’m not so sure. Yet, you see them all over, so there is, without question, something to be said for that. As you can see from the picture above, there is also an opportunistic existence that comes into play.
There are so many other factors that come into play besides brain size and urbanization. Food sources, as an example, may change, not as a result of urbanization, but of other factors. Comes to mind the Red Knots on the shores of New Jersey. This research did not take that aspect into consideration, not that it necessarily should, just an observation.
In conclusion, here’s a fun video that shows the tenacity and adaption of a common crow.