Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Painting done for now, and a wonderful study of birds

These two items are not as unrelated as they may seem.  I've been reading Jennifer Ackerman's Genius of Birds, a great study of the different forms of abilities in birds and of how humans have grappled and often failed, to understand them as forms of intelligence.

She gives many amazing examples of bird behavior which far outstrip many humans' abilities.  If you want an eye opener, go to YouTube and see 007 Crow  here

This bird had an eight part puzzle to solve, and you see him studying the situation, and the parts, then trial and error to get to the next step, and at one point you swear you see a lightbulb going off as he realizes how to make this work. It's wonderful, and quite humbling for those of us who don't always get our front door key to work first time.

Then there's memory, and birds who can hide thousands of seeds in different places and find them again as needed.  Or birds who not only use tools, but actually create them.  And birds who can recognize human faces.  As a person with face blindness -- the inability to recognize people if they're in a different context, different hairstyle, or wearing a hat and so on -- I bow down to a bird who can spot the humans he doesn't like and bombard them with nuts! Not that I want to bombard my friends with nuts, or anything, just it would be handy to know who's who when I meet them.  Oddly, when I had a flock of pet parakeets, I had no difficulty in knowing who was who.

Anyway, this was all in my mind as I taped up the window wall in the front bedroom, used for playing music and growing houseplants, and known around here as The Nook.  I kept wondering if a crow could do this better.  If a crow would make the tape stick better.  And not miss any bits. And plan on how to do the climbing up part and the not climbing part so as to extend my energy. And whether I could hire any crows, come to that.

But back to the painting, the wall came out just fine, though lighting made a pic difficult, in these humble hands, even without a handy beak to use as a tool, and I recommend the book.  She does have one small fault which is that if nine anecdotes about crows using tools works, why, 339 will work better.  I did skip sections on this account.  

But there are some really interesting conclusions drawn by researchers who find that speed is not always good in the long run, and that steady learning might serve the species better.  Speed of comprehension and execution have often been seen as markers of human intelligence and I've wondered about that, having seen some more deliberative learners end up doing amazing scientific research.  But many "intelligence"  tests we give kids do incorporate speed as part of the test. 

And I think I've done my painting quota for the moment, and will retire to read a restful Daisy Dalrymple mystery.

1 comment:

  1. One very clever bird that crow and I quite like that picture of the bird on the dust cover too.


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