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why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
04-23-2012, 10:54 AM,
#1
Thor Offline
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why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
It seems many people see birds not as smart as many other "higher" animals. Perhaps judged by the size of their brains. The term "bird brain" or "birdbrain" is used to describe someone who is not so smart.

Are birds really dumb?
I remember watching a video where a species of bird require the male to build a nest on the ground level. Then whoever builds the best nest will be able to attract the female in the area. So in the video, two male birds were competing with each other in the same area. Both birds had completed their nests. Then one of the two male left his nest for a while. During that time, the other male bird came to his competitor's nest to make a mess of it. He was pulling stuff out of the nest, and gave a finishing blow by repeat jumping on it. Icon_eek Could you believe it? A bird thinks the best way to win the competition is to destroy the competitor! He saw an opportunity and he executed the plan.

That takes more intelligent than a "birdbrain" to do it.




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05-09-2012, 11:03 AM,
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Mantis Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
It certainly is a common stereotype, probably in part stemming from cartoons and other entertainment. I don't think the size of the brain is the defining factor, however. I remember recently reading that some scientists have discovered that many insects brains are capable of far more than we had ever predicted. For the most part I'm a man of science, but I do believe some people believe in science a little too much, and as a result they perpetuate misinformation from baseless research which spreads across many communities, and in the end many people believe it. I think many scientists refuse to accept that we as humans don't actually know that much about neurology yet, despite our accomplishments.

As you've said, birds are capable of a lot. Many animals are, but we humans allow our arrogance to see other animals as lesser lifeforms in nearly every regard. You only need to watch a few documentaries to see the incredible things those with tiny brains can do. We might have come a long way and have technology on our side, but if we had to survive in harsh conditions, our efforts would be laughable compared to many animals'.

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06-10-2012, 04:48 AM,
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jenb128 Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
I hear you! That term irritates me. People who think birds are dumb really need to spend some time with one. At least people are starting to recognize how smart parrots and crows are, even though that intelligence extends to other avian species as well.

I actually did some research about origins of animal idioms not too long ago. It seems that nobody knows for sure where "bird brain" came from, but some etymologists think it's either due to the small size of the brain, or because birds are "flighty" and easily distracted. I still think the phrase needs to be stricken from the language!
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06-10-2012, 05:00 AM,
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laurasav Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
It certainly is a phrase that doesn't match up! Your story of the two competing nest-building males was really interesting and amusing. It just proves how a bird can reason and think, and even be rather devious!

My parrots continually amaze me with their intelligence. The Eclectus, a bird that supposedly rivals the African Grey in intelligence, is hilarious, what I consider our family clown. But our Quaker is the true "brainiac." She/he knows what words and phrases to use for any given situation. She is incredibly smart!
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06-10-2012, 05:06 PM,
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Ram Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
Since there are so many species of birds, their level of intelligence can be vary. The differences between different birds can be as big as monkeys compare to humans. Some birds are definitely smart. No less smart than a cat or dog, if not smarter.

Many of the talking birds require extensive training. Most recently a friend told me there is a bird in her neighborhood that can pick up any random words it heard. Like when two neighbor kids argue with each other, the bird could repeat what they just said after just heard it once. Big Grin
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06-12-2012, 04:49 AM,
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laurasav Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
My Quaker shocked me with singing "Happy Birthday" a few months after hearing me sing this to my other parrot. The Quaker was brought into our house after living in my art gallery, which then went out of business. So it picked up the song, without being "taught". It was just so surprising to hear her(him) sing it months later, when it had only heard it for the first time that ONE day!
She often picked up words and phrases at the shop where she lived the first five years of her life. One of the funniest stories was one my mother told me. Mom had been managing the gallery for me while I stayed home to get some other stuff done. A customer dropped something and my Quaker said very loudly, "WHOOPS!" The woman turned on my mother in annoyance and exclaimed, "I didn't break it!" And then she promptly walked out. She didn't know that the whoops came from a bird, not my mom being a smart alec! haha
(I told mom she should have TOLD the customer it was the bird! I didn't need to lose any customers! But it was still funny!)
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06-13-2012, 04:41 PM, (This post was last modified: 06-13-2012, 04:44 PM by jenb128.)
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jenb128 Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
Haha, love the story about your Quaker, laurasav!

I volunteer at a wildlife rehab, and we have a mostly blind old crow there who's a permanent resident. She can cluck like a chicken, say "lalalala," and do a perfect imitation of a human laugh. A couple weeks ago, she was being a brat and kept jumping on my arm while I was trying to change her cage papers. When I tried to get her to step down, she bit me, and then threw back her head and laughed. I swear she knew exactly what she was doing!

My cockatiel tries to talk, but he can't quite make out the words. Still, he knows how to tell me what he wants through body language. For example, the pic in my avatar is how he asks for millet. (He does that pose a lot).
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06-13-2012, 09:41 PM,
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Ram Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
Most people think the birds say things they completely don't understand. I believe they should at least know the meaning of a few words after a while. Like that laughing crow mentioned by jenb. You know birds are playful creatures. They mostly learn to say stuff just for fun, but sometimes they might just pick up the meaning as well judged from the circumstances you used certain words.
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06-14-2012, 12:47 AM,
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Victor Leigh Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
No, birds definitely cannot be stupid. When a bird flies in the air, for example, there are so many factors involved. If the bird's brain is not capable of assessing all the information, it would not be able to fly at all.

One other thing I have noticed is that birds can adapt to the environment very well. I used to wake up very early at one time. Birds like chicken and ducks are not supposed to wake up until the sun rises. However, after just a few times of me waking up so early, my chickens and ducks also wake up at the same time and start making noises, expecting to be fed.
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06-14-2012, 02:44 AM,
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Ram Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
(06-14-2012, 12:47 AM)Victor Leigh Wrote: No, birds definitely cannot be stupid. When a bird flies in the air, for example, there are so many factors involved. If the bird's brain is not capable of assessing all the information, it would not be able to fly at all.

One other thing I have noticed is that birds can adapt to the environment very well. I used to wake up very early at one time. Birds like chicken and ducks are not supposed to wake up until the sun rises. However, after just a few times of me waking up so early, my chickens and ducks also wake up at the same time and start making noises, expecting to be fed.

While I agree birds are smarter than most people think, flying has little to do with smart. Smile Many insects can fly too. Tongue Insects aren't that smart, although their level of intelligence is still underestimated.

The birds around here seem to be singing at around 4am while it's still 100% dark. Cf2
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06-14-2012, 03:13 AM,
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Victor Leigh Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
(06-14-2012, 02:44 AM)Ram Wrote:
(06-14-2012, 12:47 AM)Victor Leigh Wrote: No, birds definitely cannot be stupid. When a bird flies in the air, for example, there are so many factors involved. If the bird's brain is not capable of assessing all the information, it would not be able to fly at all.

One other thing I have noticed is that birds can adapt to the environment very well. I used to wake up very early at one time. Birds like chicken and ducks are not supposed to wake up until the sun rises. However, after just a few times of me waking up so early, my chickens and ducks also wake up at the same time and start making noises, expecting to be fed.

While I agree birds are smarter than most people think, flying has little to do with smart. Smile Many insects can fly too. Tongue Insects aren't that smart, although their level of intelligence is still underestimated.

The birds around here seem to be singing at around 4am while it's still 100% dark. Cf2

Singing at 4am? That's rather unusual. I haven't heard of any birds singing in the dark yet. Just curious. What kind of birds are those?
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06-14-2012, 04:19 AM,
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Ram Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
I have no idea what kind of birds they are. I can only hear them since I'd be normally still in the bed at around 4am. Not just one or two birds sing that early, but a bunch of them. It seems as soon as one bird start singing, all the birds in the neighborhood would follow. Their combined "song" can easily wake anyone with light sleep.
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06-14-2012, 04:46 AM,
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jenb128 Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
I have a few families of robins living in my yard, and I sometimes hear them as early as 3:00am. It's not so much singing and more of a flock call (one may wake up and chirp to make sure everyone else is still around).

Birds can see more colors than we can (they have cones in their eyes for ultraviolet light), and I've read that some can even see light of dawn before we do.
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06-14-2012, 05:01 AM,
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laurasav Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
jenb, your crow story reminds me of another about my Quaker. By the way, I love crows! They're super cool and smart and can be great mimics from other stories I've read about them. Anyway, my Quaker, who most definitely KNOWS what she's saying and uses everything in the proper context for each situation (usually), understands the concept of saying "sorry." Quakers are all very nippy, mine is no exception, though she's (she's really a male, but I always refer to him as "she") much friendlier than any typical Quaker. When she bites she'll usually say she's sorry, unless she really isn't. My mom didn't take her out of the cage at the gallery fast enough, ignored her too long, so when mom finally did get her, she got a nasty bite, drawing blood. Mother kept insisting the bird say she was sorry, but Picasso refused. She did the cocky Quaker strut, shook some toys, slammed her cage door back & forth, would only say, "You're a bad bird. No biting!", then laugh and strut around some more. She absolutely refused to say she was sorry because we all knew she felt justified in biting mom! LOL
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06-14-2012, 08:26 PM,
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Victor Leigh Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
Reading these stories about birds that understood what they were saying is making me re-think what I have learned about talking birds.

It's a common thing to compare a person who speaks nonsense to a bird that talks but didn't know what it is talking about. This new information changes a lot of things. For one, maybe we should be more careful about what we say in front of our talking birds. Who knows, they might be able to relay what they have heard to other birds that pass by.
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06-15-2012, 07:01 AM,
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jenb128 Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
It definitely sounds like your Quaker knew exactly what she was doing, laurasav!

Some parrots may simply be mimicking, but many birds really do know what they're saying. This was pretty much proven from the experiments with Alex the African Grey parrot. For anybody not familiar with Alex:

http://www.123compute.net/dreaming/knocking/alex.html
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06-22-2012, 01:27 AM,
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Rphoenix Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
I believe the phrase stemmed from birds having smaller brains as compared to other common animals. It's not exactly meant to insult them - it's all about the brain size and mass. I agree that it's stupid, but not much one can do about it.
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06-22-2012, 05:17 AM,
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andrew320 Offline
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
To be honest, I've never heard of that term before.

I don't think birds are dumb at all. In fact, I believe every single animal, except maybe a Wild African Donkey, is intelligent. Observe a cat, watch a documentary on elephants and look at videos of monkey, and you will see how every animal is smart or has his or her own personality.
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07-02-2012, 05:11 AM,
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RE: why do people say "bird brain" ? Birds are smart!
I have never thought about that before! I think they say that because birds are very loud some times and can sounds crazy.
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