By January 6, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

Hey Bird Brain!

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Ben was focused on founding the country, but he almost missed the emerging issue of the new century: slavery. However he took an interest in a neighbor’s young slave boy, and  became a leading Abolitionist,  lending his considerable influence to the movement to free the slaves.

What do you think is the most important issue of our time?

Some will say medical challenges like cloning, some think abortion, the environment, or capitalism vs. socialism, space exploration, alien worlds, and so on.  I’m considering all of those and more, but certainly animal intelligence and animal rights are going to explode with understandings over the next few years.

Apparently birds are very intelligent.  Take Irene Pepperberg’s books about her African gray parrot, Alex.   She researched his behavior for a couple of decades and published two books, Alex and Me and The Alex Studies.  He could speak, understand, label more than 100 objects, understood the concept of categories, contrast, etc.  Mischievous and assertive, he would shout out answers, demand food, toys and showers.  When he died in 2007, his last words were “You be good. I love you”.  And Dr. Pepperberg is an adjunct professor at Brandeis University and a lecturer and research associate at Harvard.

Then there are the crows.  After reading David Dietle’s 2011 article, “6 Terrifying Ways Crows are Way Smarter than You think”, I will never again disregard the caw of a crow. The six terrifying ways are   (1) They look at  your face.  They can recognize you and remember you.  (2) They conspire with one another, have a “language” with regional dialects.  They can describe your face to other crows and then they recognize you also.  (3) They have a good memory, if something bad happens, they will remember the circumstances and avoid those circumstances (4) They use tools  and can “make” tools (5) They plan and they can even “pretend” to do something to fool others (6) they adapt their behavior.  They study the human world,  change their behavior, and communicate this to other crows.

Now, there has never been any doubt that my dog, Jitterbug, is very smart.  She has a large vocabulary and knows how to do all sorts of things upon command (if she wants to).   I’ve often wondered what she was really thinking  as she looks lovingly at me with those large brown eyes. Now, I’m not sure I want to know.  She might start giving me commands.  I know she has trained me to do a few tricks already.

CircleBen-02_100x115Ben was opposed to the selection of the American Bald Eagle as the national symbol  of honesty and courage.  In a letter to his daughter in 1782, he said, “The Eagle is a bird of bad character.  He does not get his living honestly …he…steals it from the hawk’s nest…Besides he is a rank coward: The little king bird…attacks him boldly-He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for our brave and honest people…as we have driven all the King birds from our country…”

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About the Author:

I am an observer of our interesting world , sharing my passions and my outrages, and thinking of Incredible Ben, his amazing blending of a social and civic life with superb common sense.

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