Current Ornithology

Volume 13 of the series Current Ornithology pp 33-66

Predicting Cognitive Capacity from Natural History

Examples from Four Species of Corvids
  • Russell P. BaldaAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University
  • , Alan C. KamilAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska
  • , Peter A. BednekoffAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Birds have been studied for centuries because they are numerous, conspicuous, and aesthetically pleasing to humans Despite their overall regard for birds, historically, many ornithologists have considered birds as instinct-driven organisms of little intellectual capacity. For example, the ornithological textbook of choice from the 1960s states the following view of avian intelligence:

Flight has proven to be an enormously successful evolutionary venture, but one that has cost birds dearly in mental development. In effect, flight has become a substitute for cleverness; birds solve many potential problems merely by flying away from them…. As a consequence, much [avian] behavior is, by mam-malian standards, fragmentary, stereotyped, and at times amazingly stupid. (Welty, 1962, p.159).