Nature Notes

Vol. XII May, 1934 No. 5

Examples of Bird Intelligence

Perhaps the most interesting and regular visitor to the Paradise Community House last summer was a Shufeldt Junco. This small, slate-colored bird discovered an opening beneath the eaves of the building, and each day made a number of trips to the interior of the structure for the purpose of catching the numerous flies which buzzed about over the window panes. Apparently the bird had a nest nearby for, after collecting a beak full of insects, it would disappear through the opening by which it had entered. One morning, two juncos were noticed pursuing flies on the inside face of the windows. No doubt the young birds were old enough by that time so that both parents felt that it was safe to leave the nest, and the discovered of the bountiful commissary had brought his mate to assist with the food gathering activities.

Just outside one of the windows of this same Community House, Ranger-naturalist Chappell constructed a bird feeding platform. The first day of its use found it well patronized by several of the Clark's Crows or Nutcrackers that are so numerous in the vicinity. The platform was supplied with a large lump of suet which the birds attacked with greedy energy. Because of the competition and the resulting antagonism, each bird attempted to pack off a chunk of suet so that he might fly to a secluded spot and consume it unmolested. On several occasions, it was noticed that these birds attempted to pry off pieces of the stiff material, inserting the point of the long beak in the openings which had been pecked in the suet, and then spreading the beak to break the substance. One bird had succeeded in separating a large lump from the original piece, except for one tough, fibrous membrane which he was unable to peck apart. After working at it for some time, he apparently realized that a more effective method must be used. Grasping the smaller piece in his beak, he held it firmly and jumped over the edge of the platform thus using the weight of his body to tear away the strand. The birds consumed the suet at such a rapid rate that it was necessary to substitute bacon rind which they could not tear apart, and for the pieces of which the birds were required to do considerable labor. This kept them about the platform to the evident interest and pleasure of visitors who crowded around the windows to observe them.

Although the Nutcrackers exhibited no little ingenuity in their efforts to obtain food at the feeding board, they were completely baffled by the transparency of the glass in the windows. On several occasions, one or more of them wandered into the building and, in attempting to leave, flew with a thump against a window pane. After several such attempts each bewildered bird was so befuddled by the repeated hammering that it was easily captured. After recuperating sufficiently to be able to navigate, each bird was freed in the open. In every case the victim dashed away with a vigor and intensity of purpose that indicated clearly the state of mind engendered by the harrowing experience.

Natt Dodge - Ranger-naturalist
Season 1933-and '34

cone of Western White Pine (Pinus monticola)

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