Fancypants City Birds are Smarter than Country Birds


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


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 been forced to adapt to their urban environments, say a team of all-McGill University researchers. The streets have made them hard, dude. This has enabled them to exploit new resources more favourably than their rural counterparts.

A country bird: The easy life has made them soft.

This study was the first to ever see if there were differences between hay-loving country birds and bin-picking city 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. The country birds? Not so much.

And, the important question remains: Will city birds continue to photobomb tourists trying to take photos of momuments? The answer, of course, will always be YES.

Innovativeness is considered to be useful in the “real life” of animals in the wild. It is even more valuable than the ability to just learn in the normal way.  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 those 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. It seems that in this case, the urban birds have it all.”

Urban birds are street-wise and are quick to solve problems like where to have a nice cool drink.

The study was done 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. This gave researchers an excellent environment to study the effects of urbanisation.

So if you are still angry about that seagull from Dún Laoghaire who stole chips from your mouth, don’t be. That bird is smart and tough. Refrain from trying to feed him to country birds. It’s all good.

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