Animal Slander! Debunking 'Birdbrained' And 'Eat Like A Bird'

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All right first up bird brained again. People say this when they're implying somebody needs to get it together or they're scattered. Yeah clearly not a compliment right so for more on this you talked to Corinna newsom. Hello Hi Emily. Yeah Hey how are you? I'm good how are you good? Good my name's emily. Corinne is a Grad student at Georgia Southern University studying birds and before that she was zookeeper she's got a deep well of experience to draw upon for today's episode. What's your relationship with that phrase bird brained? I usually get a little bit offended when I hear the word bird brained as a person who spent a lot of time training birds For the purpose of education and showing off natural behaviors. I've gotten a chance to look very closely. At how birds think and understanding the way that they think and being very impressed with their cognition and so when I hear people use bird brained as an insult. I am. Dan Personally insulted. You gotta stand by Your burs. Starting off strong. I mean you gotta set the tone. Okay trusted expert. Witness Carina newsom approaching the bench. Hit us with that sweet sweet evidence. Carina SAYS BIRDS ARE OVERALL PRETTY SMART. Cognition depends on the species of course but birds in the Corbett family like crows and Ravens are wicked smart. Oh Yeah Yeah Yeah. They can memorize faces. They were Super Cool. Experiments on that in some crows can make tools which is usually associated with primates. Correct and you know what other birds are. Smart Parrots. They are incredibly social animals. They are also very skilled at mimicry. At recognizing even memorizing patterns At picking up on behavioral cues from humans. Corinna says that parents are tough pets precisely because they're so smart you have to give them mental stimulation and if you don't they're going to occupy themselves which oftentimes may end up looking like biting your furniture tearing apart your shoes wreaking havoc on your home here. It's need constant mental stimulation or else. It's just havoc and all of this has to do with connections inside their brains. Do I smell little data? Kwon Oh you. Do you better believe you do so a couple of years ago. This study came out that looked at brains across different types of birds songbirds parrots various birds of prey and the study looked closely at this part of the brain called the medial spira form nucleus which helps connect the Sara Bellum to the Tel and south one. Zero Bhalla is at the back of the brain deals with muscle movements balance. That kind of stuff. Do you know what that is yet? Yeah I know stuff kwong. Okay fine well do you know at the Telegraph. Alana's I yes. Go read do go right ahead. What is it okay. All right Gimme second. There's a lot of stuff in the brain Yeah it's this really intricate set up structures in the brain that are required for some of the most complex and evolved functions. Yeah you clearly. Google that With I can't you're breaking up on going through a tunnel. Ma'am you're in a closet? You can't be gone through the same time all right anyway. Moving on the key here. Is that the bridge connecting these two parts. The medial spire form. Nucleus and birds is a mark of strong cognitive abilities and parrots have an unusually large medial spiral form nucleus for their size so the birds have small low noggins but really advanced Lil Naga. Oh yeah good point. That was my follow up question to this research. Carino was talking about two and so despite the fact that birds have like very very small brains Usually like the size of a walnut forest and even larger Brain Bird. Those brains are the most effective at packing neurons compared to any other brains including Mammalian brains. So you hear that birds punching above their weight when it comes to neural density honestly. I'm not surprised. So some birds have about as many neurons in therefore brain than like a primate so because their brain has some complex folding and the the neurons are closer physically closer together inside of the brain. They can have a large number of neurons accomplishing a lot of the same goals that animals with bigger brains and their but fewer neurons have. Okay Kwong the verdict on bird brained. Oh you know what it is Mattie. Do I even need to say it slander? Getting so good that you taught me how could Lord okay? Okay my turn so I looked into the phrase eat like a bird. Oh yeah very curious about this. People will say that it suggests. Someone doesn't eat very much that they're like peckish right. Which you know the official. Npr shortly position is that just. Don't comment on how much or how little somebody eats you know what I mean. Generally speaking yeah mine. You're on food business. Yes so okay. Let us start our examination of eat like a bird by considering the simple hummingbird. Do you know how they eat. Deer Kwan no no I do not dear Mattie but I fear but I fear you are about to tell me in excruciating detail first of all let me start off by saying you're welcome second introduce you to Alejandro Trico. He is an assistant professor of biology at the University of Washington on curator of birds at the Burke Museum of the University of Washington. But before that when he was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut he was part of one of my favorite bird. Eating related experiments ever so humming. Birds have really long tongues that dart out to get nectar and for a long time scientists. Thought that the tongue worked like a tiny tiny little tube so small the nectar. Kinda just shoots up the tongue on its own by what's called capillary action Ali in his boss Margaret Ruby. The did not by this capillary action. Theory Oh We were discussing. How the equations and the predictions from those capillaries don really made sense in terms of what the actual the hummingbirds in nature look like. But here's the thing on one does not simply eyeball a hummingbird tongue. These little are as thin as a fishing line and they dart in and out of the beak at like fifteen to twenty times per second. Whoa so to solve these problems. What we devise were tiny transparent flowers with flat sides so we could film through it and see the action happening on. We needed high speed video because it's happening so fast so we were filming between a thousand and two thousand frames per second just to see how long would interact with the nectar. So cool all right so. They made little glass flowers so they could film through them. That's that's pretty genius. Yeah and what they saw kwong. It changed the Hummingbird game. What we saw is that the Humbert on when he touches the nectar. I the portion that is inside the liquid on falls on it has little fringes on those tubes on those open up. Oh so it definitely isn't just a static little tube no not even close as the tongue is shooting out of the beak. It's compressed by the beak but when the tip of tongue hits the nectar it splits into two like a little snake tongue and those tips. They have these little flaps that hoping an those flaps fill up with nectar. That is so amazing.

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