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Bird Brains: Smarter Than We Think

Birds are smarter than we think they are, perhaps because they are the descendents of dinosaurs. We think of dinos as having been huge and fairly stupid, but maybe they were actually both huge and SMART. Biologists have recently deciphered the "bee dance" that honeybees do to tell other bees where the honey is. Now they are trying to decipher bird calls.

Robert Roy Britt writes in livescience.com that the bird songs we hear around us when we take a walk outside are actually an amazing form of avian communication. Birds make noise to attract mates, locate other birds of their same species (so they can all fly South together in the autumn, for instance) and to warn other birds of dangers. The more intelligent birds, such as crows and blue jays, are especially good at warning other birds about imminent danger.

The black-capped chickadee not can describe a predator's size and the degree of threat it represents, and it does this all with it?s familiar chick-a-dee-dee-dee song, just by adding a few more "dees" to the end of it.

A cat on the ground will inspire five or 10 dees. But an owl or a cat climbing up the tree the birds are in will elicit to even more. Biologists have heard as many as 23 "dees" when a pygmy owl was perched near some chickadees.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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