Fancypants City Birds are Smarter than Country Birds

Fancypants City Birds are Smarter than Country Birds

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By Nicole Buckler

Life in the big smoke makes birds tougher and sharper, according to a new study by science boffins.

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Birds living in urban environments are smarter than birds from rural environments. But, why do city birds have the edge over their country friends? Because they have adapted to their urban environments, say a team of all-McGill University researchers. The streets have made them hard, dude. This enables them to exploit new resources more favourably than their rural counterparts.

This study was the first to ever see if there were differences between hay-loving country birds and sharp city-slicker birds. The birds in question really did have different problem-solving abilities when it came to things like opening drawers to access food, and temperament. City birds were quick and innovative. But, the important question remains: Can city birds photobomb tourists trying to take photos of momuments? That’s the only activity that will impress us, afterall.

Innovativeness is considered to be useful in the “real life” of animals in the wild, more so than associative learning. Jean-Nicolas Audet is a Ph.D student in the Department of Biology. He says, “Birds from urbanised areas were better at innovative problem-solving tasks than bullfinches from rural environments. But surprisingly urban birds also had a better immunity than rural birds. Since urban birds were better at problem-solving, we expected that there would be a trade-off and that the immunity would be lower, just because we assumed that you can’t be good at everything’ (in fact, both traits are costly). It seems that in this case, the urban birds have it all.”

Yes, but do they look good in Armani suits? If not, it doesn’t count.

The work was conducted at the McGill Bellairs facility in Barbados using bullfinches captured from various parts of the Caribbean island. The island of Barbados shows a strong range of human settlement, there are some very developed areas but also many areas have been left untouched, thus providing an excellent environment to study the effects of urbanisation.

All I know is that I am still angry with that seagull from Dún Laoghaire who stole my chips FROM MY MOUTH. He was smart and tough. And if I ever find him, I’m gonna feed him to country birds. Gladly.

 

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