Dedicated to understanding  the remarkable emotional, social and mental abilities of birds, and the unsuspected richness of their societies.

Alex & Me - Dr Irene Pepperberg - Book Review

Alex and me - book reviewAlex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process - by Dr Irene Pepperberg


I found the book both remarkable and sad. Dr Irene Pepperberg describes her early childhood which set her on a course to demonstrate the cognitive abilities of African greys and her life long struggle to prove to the close minded and close hearted scientific world that birds were capable of intelligence far beyond humans had credited them.  Alex’s impressive mastery included a vocabulary of over 100 words, new shapes and colours. He even invented the concept of zero or nothing of his own accord to surprise of all in the research lab.

In a captivating, highly readable style Pepperberg describes her struggles with life’s hardships through a divorce, relocations and loss of funding all through which she somehow managed to keep the study going.  The book is a tribute to Alex. During his life Pepperberg had to stay aloof in order to maintain the level of objectiveness demanded by her peers in order to her results seriously. It was only after his death that she could allow herself to express the affection she felt for him.  

For sceptics who have spent their lives turning their back on common sense and insisting on denying that animals and birds are intelligent, conscious creatures, the book clearly provides the proof that they have always sought. 

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Bird Brains by Candace Savage - Book Review

Corvids are revered in many indigenous cultures and admired for their intelligence and wisdom. Yet, the phrases ‘bird brains’ and ‘feather brains’ often used derogatively emerged based on the incorrect assumption that birds are dumb, unthinking and unfeeling creatures.

Renowned author of natural history Candace Savage distils some of the incredible abilities of the corvids discovered by researchers and presents them in this beautiful book with over 60 spectacular photographs by the top international photographers.

In one experiment, for instance, a raven was given the task of identifying the odd-shaped object in an array of six otherwise identical items. Its performance put it on par with gorillas and chimps, our own species’ closest relatives.” (p 18, The Secret of their Success)

In one short summer season, a single nutcracker is estimated to cache between 22,000 and 33,000 sees in up to 7,500 different places. To survive the winter and spring, it must recover about a third of these tiny reserves, all of which are buried in loose soil. Although most caches are made on windswept ridges or south-facing slopes where the snow cover is light, nutccrackers have been known to unearth caches from drifts that lie hip deep.” (p 120, The Nutcracker Never Forgets).

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Gifts of The Crow by John Marzluff and Tony Angell

In Indian legends crows are considered to be one of the most intelligent of birds. So I was quite surprised to discover when I first came to Australia the late seventies that in western culture of that time, birds (and other animals) were not considered to have consciousness and cognitive abilities. In our backyard the crows do not mind that the magpies, butcherbirds and noisy-miners take priority over them. They have repeatedly shown themselves to be sensitive, attentive to our feelings, sympathetic, grateful and funny birds.

I was delighted to read John Marzluff and Tony Angell’s book The Gift of the Crow. Marzluff is a professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington and has authored four books and hundreds of papers on bird behaviour. Tony Angell is has authored and illustrated numerous award winning books on natural history.

The book covers two major aspects of Crow behaviour. Firstly in great detail the authors describe the findings of research done on crows with regard to their abilities to communicate with language, play and frolic, indulge in delinquent behaviour, act with passion, take risks and display an awareness that most people have mistakenly assumed to be beyond the capabilities of birds.

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Easter With The Birds

By Leah Lemieux

Over the long Easter weekend, I decided to visit my wild bird friends by the lake in Albert Park.  To celebrate, I brought some tasty raw nuts for my friends and something special.
The family of magpies, attended by the usual pair of magpie larks and noisy miners greeted me and enthusiastically accepted the nuts and morning greetings I offered.  After the magpies had their fill, my two favourite ravens came over to see me.  They are both very large for little ravens and were the first birds to accept my overtures at friendship, so they always hold a very special place in my heart.  They are very beautiful and I always tell them so and admire their grace, humour and beauty.
    Because it was Easter, I brought them a very special treat--a hard boiled egg.  I rolled it over to the male raven (who I affectionately think of as Karasu, which is Japanese for crow).  Now, I know, in the bird world, no one ever hands over an egg--rather they are guarded carefully.  So Karasu looked like he couldn't believe his eyes.  Other members of the flock (around 15 or so of different ages) looked on with interest.  I insisted this gift was for him and his mate to have. Finally, he stepped forward, keeping an eye fixed on me and tested the egg's weight and consistency with his bill.  I wondered if he would spirit it away to cashe some place and eat it all himself, or share with his mate.  
    Instead, he did something amazing.  
   Taking the egg in his bill, he leapt into the air, stroking powerfully up to about 20 feet up and then he threw the egg down on the turf.  The egg exploded into many pieces and then the whole flock of ravens settled down happily to the Easter feast--it was fantastic!  It was lovely to see that enjoying the gift I brought them was all about sharing the special treat with the group.


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Not All Farmers Hate Bats

by Yvonne Shaw from Bats Qld

red flying fox This little fellow was found hanging on a fence post by a farmer at Taroom in western QLD. He took him home and looked after him for 5 days, during which time the bat actually gained weight. The farmer’s aged parents were heading to Toowoomba (a 6 hour drive) and kindly took him with them. Carer Peter met them in Toowoomba and brought him home to join the other little reds. He is completely uninjured, so why he was quietly hanging on a fence post is a bit of a mystery. Anyway, a big thank you to Peter Mundell from Taroom!

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