Bird Brains . . .

Discussion in 'Celebrate Biodiversity' started by Michael F, Aug 21, 2008.

  1. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Fascinating, thanks.
     
  3. Avimimus

    Avimimus Member

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    I've always had a wide set of doubts about this "mirror test".

    It is difficult to apply to animals that don't have arms & hands (to remove a dot etc.)

    It is also of dubious significance for animals that don't rely on vision for identification. For instance, as "images in mirrors" lack smell giving the test to a dog (which primarily identifies individuals via. smell) would be about as appropriate as testing a human being's ability to recognise themselves using dirty socks.

    Finally, I'll raise one more issue. Assume an animal that is unused to mirrors and even puddles of water sees itself in a mirror and figures out what is going on. The reactions which are traditionally judged to show lack of self recognition (and by some dubious logical leap lack of "self consciousness") may be completely rational. To use the human example: Imagine if a perfect 3d doppleganger of you where to show up at your house and copy everything that you do... how would you react?

    Personally, given my lack of experience with dopplgangers or any understanding of them, my reactions would likely be confusion and to worry about it as a physical threat. In fact the very appearance of a "duplicate" might challenge one's own sense of identity in the universe. Perhaps, some of the strange agonistic reactions seen to reflections in mirrors are actually a result of self-consciousness instead of lack of self-consciousness...

    So, it is really interesting to see it work with magpies. Lots of questions...
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    The key point is that you have to have a "me" in your head. If a duplicate of you showed up and you had no self-awareness, that aspect of the situation wouldn't bother you. You'd just react to it as another individual of your species. Apes grooming themselves using mirrors are showing that they know there is a "me" and that is what they are seeing in the mirror.
     
  5. Chungii V

    Chungii V Active Member

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    Heading away from self awareness but sticking with the Magpies remembering and recognizing threats.
    When I was a teenager we moved into a new area. Our new Neighbour used to feed the magpies and other local birds, and we quickly joined him and did so too. The first mating season showed us that this was actually something the parents birds never forgot. We did not see as much of the birds while they cared for their young. We were however the only people (neighbour included) that could safely walk along or street without fear of being 'swooped' by protective Magpie parents. Even our friends were not safe even though they were regular visitors to our home. This continued for the entire 8 years we lived there.
    Then recently we rented a house for 12months. I got up one morning and opened the back door. A rather large Magpie flew down from the gum tree out back and landed on a pool fence barely 2 metres away. Remembering my childhood I thought I'll go get some bread and see if he'll take some. Well I got about 5 metres into the house when to my absolute amazement the magpie followed me inside. There it sat on the top of a chair at our dinning table. I guess this bird has had previous human interaction to be so friendly, but again it shows that birds can remember that humans can be kind. I also managed to get 2 rainbow lorikeets to eat out of my hand, again someone must've done so previously, but it does show some form of recognition.
    The reason these stand out is because they are wild birds that have come to interact with people through familiarization. I believe there's a big difference between this and say going to a bird sanctuary where birds are hand fed from the day they are able.
     

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