• In the late 1980s, scientists in Florida scattered food pellets to attract fish to a specific spot in a bay. A great blue heron watched these proceedings and discovered that if it hung out nearby, it could feast on the fish that came up for the pellets. After several days, either the fish got wise or they had all been eaten because they stopped coming to eat the pellets. Scientists were astounded to see the heron pick up a pellet in its beak, take it a short distance down the shore, drop it in the water, and nab a fish that surfaced. • A man in Washington once tossed crackers to a raven until the raven was full and could eat no more. The raven wanted to take more crackers to its cache, but it could pick up only one cracker at a time in its beak. By the time it got back to collect the next cracker, other critters would have stolen the rest of the food. The man was astonished to see the raven solve the dilemma by tucking the crackers side by side into a snowbank one at a time. When several crackers were lined up together, the raven was able to pick them all up at one time and fly off with the entire batch. • Bill and Wilma Fisher raised birds and had about 30 parrots. Once when they were away from home at a parrot show, one of their parrots used his beak to undo the bolts that held his cage together. When the cage collapsed, the parrot escaped. He then managed to unlatch all the other cages one at a time. When the bird sitter arrived later that day, she discovered all the birds in the middle of a parrot party. • When a storm blew down the netting that enclosed the New York Zoological Society’s gigantic aviary in the 1960s, zookeepers captured as many of the remaining birds as they could, but left the netting open. Within the next few days, nearly 75% of the escaped birds returned home.
• King Henry VIII had a pet parrot that one day fell unnoticed into the Thames River. It was rescued only because it raucously squawked, "Boat! Boat!" • A parrot listed in the Guinness Book of World Records had a vocabulary of 531 words. He could recite eight nursery rhymes in a single breath without mistake.
• Chickadees hide seeds in holes in trees where they will stay safe until retrieved and eaten. One researcher wanted to test the memory of chickadees, so he arranged a forest of artificial trees. Each tree had holes and each hole had a door which could either be open or closed. He gave his experimental chickadees some sunflower seeds to store when all the doors were opened. He watched where they stashed the seeds, then chased the birds away. He removed all the seeds, then closed every door— whether or not it had contained seeds. This way all the holes looked and smelled the same. Then he let the birds back in. The birds invariably searched the holes where they had stashed seeds 24 hours earlier. They tore the doors off searching for their seeds and ignored the holes where they had not placed seeds. • For his next experiment, he set out to see if they could remember the holes they had already visited. After storing the seeds, he chased the birds out of the aviary and didn't let them back in for 24 hours. He gave them enough time to visit half of the holes to retrieve their seeds, then chased them out again. 24 hours later he allowed them in a second time, this time with all the doors closed once again and all the remaining seeds removed. Still, the chickadees went back to each hole that had once contained seeds, but they didn't bother going back to the holes they had visited the previous day. It seems that the memory of a chickadee is very good indeed.
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"Cereal," "Bird Brains" and "Oatmeal"