How smart is your parakeet or that crow in the back yard? Ask Dr. Louis Lefebvre, inventor of the world’s only comprehensive avian IQ index. His intelligence index is not only separating the featherweights from the big bird brains, it’s also providing clues about why some birds make great immigrants, as well as insight into the parallel evolution of primate and bird brains.
The smarts pecking order is based not on a single bird-in-cage test, but on 2,000 reports of feeding innovations that have been observed in the wild and published in the world’s ornithology journals. "Initially, quite honestly, I didn’t think it would work," says Dr. Lefebvre, an animal behaviourist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who first reported the bird bell curve system in 1997. "Scientists don’t like anecdotal evidence. So if you’re wary of one anecdote, why would you expect to find a valid pattern in 2,000? I’ve been waiting for something to come up that would invalidate the system, but nothing has."
The biologist, whose work is supported by Science and Engineering Research Canada (NSERC), will present his latest findings at the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington D.C. on February 21.
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