Bird Intelligence -- The Willy Wagtail
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Weighing less than an ounce, the restless Willy Wagtail of Australia is a tough little customer that is not afraid to take on a larger bird -- including a trespassing raven or Wedge-tailed Eagle.  White eyebrows expand when the bird is angry, and the Wagtail has even been known to attack dogs and cats.  The nests are distinctive cups bound outside with spider webs and lined inside with fur sometimes stolen from living animals.  At night, it will serenade the full moon.

Like all members of Superfamily Corvoidea (which includes crows), this bird is intelligent and adaptable.  Its tendency to hang around people makes it sometimes appear to be eavesdropping on conversation -- hence the aboriginal nickname "stealer of secrets," and the more recent "Sheperd's Companion."  The Willy Wagtail is still inventing new ways of interacting with modern humans, as indicated in this recent E-Mail to BirdMinds.com.

Our appreciation to David Satterthwaite for volunteering the observation, and a tip of the hat to clinton1550 for this picture taken in Perth, Australia.

  Willy Wagtail


I work at a public science centre in Western Australia. This afternoon I witnessed a Willy Wagtail engage in some very interesting behaviour. The bird had entered the downstairs shopping centre via a pair of large glass automatic doors and was hopping around feeding off food scraps. Apparently full, he took flight over to the doors. Without actually touching the glass, he apparently ascertained they were closed and landed on the ground in front of them, then hopped off to one side. He waited for around 20 seconds until a patron walked up, then took flight and headed out of the doors as they slid open. Apparently, according to shopping centre staff, he has been doing this daily for years. He will wait outside until a patron trips the door sensor and will use the same process to exit! Quite fascinating, and indicates intelligence beyond that traditionally ascribed I would say.

David Satterthwaite ScienceNetwork WA Editor Scitech

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