For those of us living in cities, most urban birds are just… there. Either they’re annoying creatures that just get in your way and leave droppings everywhere, or they’re just part of the scenery. Maybe you occasionally feed them in the park, but you really don’t stop to consider their intellect.
Well, for scientists, that’s just what they’re paid to do. So, confirming something that any city dweller could attest to, researchers from the McGill University in Canada prove that metropolitan birds are smarter than their rural counterparts. They managed to prove this by putting the animals through a series of tests to test their adaptability and problem solving skills.
Because birds in urban environments have to adapt to new tasks when living in the city, while rural birds stick to the same routines day after day, the team of researchers wanted to test which group of the two was smarter. As expected, it was the city birds, but the tests they were put through are worth the story.
Both groups were given both associative learning tasks and problem solving tasks. Since innovation is so often associated with cleverness, it was expected for the city birds to display plenty of that; and they sure did. The tasks focused around the animals having to reach seeds placed in hard to reach locations.
Simpler task consisted of opening a drawer in order to get to a bunch of seeds, while the more difficult ones were truly complex. For example, one of the tasks had the birds pull a stick out of a transparent box in order to be able to reach it, open the container, and then get to the seeds.
Birds and problem solving
Even though the team expected the birds in the urban environment to outsmart their rural cousins, they expected them to have poorer immunity. This is because generally in situations like this, the animals experience a trade-off, giving up something in order to gain something else.
But it just so happened that this wasn’t the case for urban birds. Instead of trading something for something else, the urban birds decided to fully embrace their city-like behavior and just take everything. So it looks like city birds do actually have it all – both smarts and health.