Birds on the brain: What we can learn from our feathered friends

With Thanksgiving this week in the United States, many people have birds on the brain—cooking them, sharing them, and eating them. Turkeys have a long food history with Americans, according to one study. But other bird species—and studies—also offer Thanksgiving insights.

Honor the American turkey tradition

Researchers have known that turkeys had been a part of Native American life long before the first Thanksgiving in 1621. But recent research from Florida State University has revealed that Native Americans were actively raising and managing turkeys.

The study was published in The Journal of Archeological Sciences: Reports on Nov. 21.

Listen for the music around the dinner table

Researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, City University of New York, and Freie Universität Berlin and Macquarie University in Australia concluded that the tuneful behavior of some songbirds parallels that of human musicians.

The study was published in the Royal Society Open Science on Sept. 14.

Keep the peace with your female dinner companions

Research is shedding new light on the causes of divorce in monogamous year-round territorial birds.  Researchers from Monash University in Australia have discovered that the female purple-crowned fairy-wren is calling the shots when it comes to breaking up.

The study was published in Behavioral Ecology on July 15.

Be selective on where you celebrate if you’re single

Researchers from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom have concluded that great tits pick their spring breeding sites to be near their winter flock mates. They also choose busier breeding locations—where habitat is often better, males are more abundant, and the ratio of males to females is more equal.

The study was published in Ecology Letters on Sept. 13.

Don’t judge your dinner companion by his/her cover

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand and Ruhr University in Germany concluded that pigeons can learn to distinguish real words from non-words by visually processing their letter combinations.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on Sept. 16.

Photo credit: © iStock/davidsdodd


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