Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bird Brains and Migration

A new study by Spanish scientists has found that non-migratory birds tend to have larger brains than migratory birds. Resident birds are more likely to find alternate sources of food and to try foraging techniques. Some European blackbirds have been observed using sticks to clear snow away from potential food sources. This provides an important advantage for resident birds during the colder months when food is scarce. Migration is an extremely stressful and hazardous journey so species that can adapt to the cold are better off staying put. There does seem to be some question about the cause and effect of the relationship between brain size and migration. Some seem to think that migratory birds are forced to migrate because they are not smart enough to adapt, while others argue that the small brain size is necessary to reduce the energy needed for the long migratory flight.