Current Ornithology pp 33-66

Part of the Current Ornithology book series (CUOR, volume 13)

Predicting Cognitive Capacity from Natural History

Examples from Four Species of Corvids
  • Russell P. Balda
  • Alan C. Kamil
  • Peter A. Bednekoff


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).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell P. Balda
    • 1
  • Alan C. Kamil
    • 2
  • Peter A. Bednekoff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of NebraskaLincolnUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Applied Mathematics and Centre for Biodiversity ResearchUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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