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Do City-Dwelling Birds Have Bigger Brains?

Researchers from Spain and Sweden have concluded that birds that live in urban areas have larger brains, relative to their body size. The study, conducted in 12 cities in France and Switzerland, aimed to determine why certain birds adapt and thrive in the city, while others fare better in less-congested conditions. The research, published in the journal Biology Letters, suggests that the larger brain size of urban-dwelling titmice, crows, nuthatches and wrens helps them adapt to a more challenging lifestyle that requires some innovation to find suitable food and nesting locations. Other studies have found a similar link between brain size and behavioral innovation in birds and mammals.

More about birds and brain size:

  • The researchers hope their findings will help conservation efforts, as they will identify specific bird species that require areas resembling their natural habitat in order to thrive in cities.
  • Some small-brained species, such as barn swallows, actually do quite well in the city, but this may be because they are able to find urban locations that resemble their natural habitat.
  • Equating brain size to adaptability is one thing, but whether urban dwellers are actually more cognitively intelligent has yet to be proven.
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