[ExI] vultures sneeze

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Thu Jan 22 03:33:45 UTC 2015

On Sat, Jan 17, 2015 at 1:24 PM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:

> Crows and ravens are special birds, and are perhaps the easiest wild
> birds to observe: they like people.  Or they like to mess with people.
> Seagulls are like that too.  They play, they seem curious, they do fun
> stuff.
>  BillW, we have a few ravens who have discovered how to put walnuts in
> the road and let cars run over them, but even better now.  There is a
> phenomenon in my neighborhood where a raven with a nut will perch on top of
> a light pole on the corner.  When she hears a garage door opening, she
> takes the nut, swoops down and places it in the driveway, then flies away
> to watch.  You are the one who asked if dogs reason.  Answer: sure they do,
> and this bird is demonstrating that this bird reasons too.  She knows that
> when a garage door opens, a car will come out, and cars crush nuts and a
> bird can’t get to the contents of a nut unless it is crushed.
> Cars are recent, automatic garage door openers are even more recent. That
> bird at some point reasoned out a cause and effect relationship and acted
> on it.  Conclusion: some birds definitely use reason, and it is clear
> enough that dogs and cats do as well.  I don’t think you will find too many
> dog and cat owners who will dispute that notion, or if so, I am interested
> in their evidence.

Yes, I think ravens and crows and some other birds are probably at least as
intelligent as apes. Another example,  nobody taught the birds in the early
20'th century when home milk deliveries were common to open the milk
bottles left on doorsteps, they figured it out on their own; and after they
have removed the aluminum foil seal on the bottles they tore the foil into
more convenient shapes to use as tools to scoop up the cream at the top of
the bottles.

To me one mystery is how the birds even knew there was anything good to eat
in those bottles, birds have a poor sense of smell; I'm just speculating
but perhaps they noticed that a big animal, humans, seemed to value these
things, and if its valuable for humans perhaps it is for birds too. Then
they modified an existing object, the foil seal, to use as a scoop.

A raven's brain is only about 17 cubic centimeters, a chimpanzees brain is
over 400, and yet a raven is about as smart as a chimp. And the African
Grey Parrot has demonstrated a understanding of human language at least as
deep as that of a chimpanzee and probably deeper, this despite the fact
that the chimp's brain is about 25 times as large. I suppose that when
there was evolutionary pressure to become smarter a flying creature
couldn't just develop a bigger, heavier more energy hogging brain; instead
of the brute force approach it had to organize the small light brain it
already had in more efficient ways. Our brains are about 1400 cm, but I'll
bet centimeter by centimeter ravens are smarter than we are.

Being called a birdbrain may not be an insult after all. For this reason I
believe if one wishes to study the nature of intelligence crows and ravens
and parrots would be ideal candidates, compared with other animals their
brains would be more elegantly organized and have less spaghetti code and
hard to understand kludges.

  John K Clark
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