Bird Intelligence --
             The Black-Capped Chickadee

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Are Chickadees smarter in Alaska?

Bird brains - at least the hippocampus memory organs -- get larger with latitude -- an effect attributed to the intellectual demands of frosty environments.  Now research by Tim Roth confirms Black-Capped Chickadees from Anchorage do indeed have an intellectual edge over their cousins in Kansas.

Hand reared northern chicks proved significantly faster at solving problems to get food -- removing the correct washer from a 3 x 5 grid.


Finding food stashes is something that comes naturally to Chickadees.  In Tahoe National Forest, California, Mountain Chickadees are careful to hide their food stashes out of sight of thieving nuthatches, while ignoring Juncos (birds that don't normally raid food caches) -- showing Chickadees can identify different bird species, and forsee their behavior.

So are Southern birds just intellectual featherweights that have been spending too much time at the backyard feeder?

Not necessarily.  Kansas is just one location -- different pockets of birds throughout American might have different intellectual profiles.  Toxins or other local factors could affect the intelligence of baby chicks.  And there is the difficult to measure index of attitude and motivation.  Possibly Alaskan birds are just quicker to answer the call of a hungry stomach.

How smart are the Chickadees in your neighborhood?  With a little time and less than a dollar's worth of hardware, you might be the first to find out.

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