SCIENCE

bird brain

programme information

Duration

1 x 60'

Production Company

Produced by Parthenon Entertainment for Terra Mater Factual Studios

YOP

2012

Definitions

HD

Episode Information

It’s used as an insult – ‘bird brain’ – not very bright. But new research means this may no longer apply. This film shows how bird intelligence can even be compared to that of apes. Magpies, for example, have joined the elite of animals that have passed the mirror test for self-awareness. The crow family has also joined another exclusive club – that of tool users – previously thought to be confined to the great apes. And New Caledonian crows not only use tools, but also make tools for specific jobs. The other group of intelligent birds showing startling intelligence are the parrots. Parrot research has shown that blue-fronted Amazons, Hyacinth and Lear's macaws can all complete the string-pull test as well as ravens. But king of the parrot minds are New Zealand’s keas. These mountain parrots not only complete the pull-string test, but can do it with extra strings thrown in to confuse the matter. So are keas the most intelligent of the birds? Not necessarily. With a combination of wild observations and specially designed tests, this film guides us through the latest research on bird intelligence, a journey that will re-define the meaning of ‘bird-brained’.

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