Do birds mind our presence?
Summer is the time when we tend to spend more time outside, reconnecting with nature one way or another. If we are keen observers, birds offer us myriad opportunities to engulf ourselves in their world of relationships, either with their mates of the same species or with birds of different species. But what about their relationship with us: do they mind our presence?
Birds have long been perceived as not the brightest of the lot. The popular saying of having a “bird brain” has not exactly been a praise. At least until recently. As it turns out, many birds are among the smartest animals. That’s probably not surprising to anyone who observed the birds from the craw family for more than five minutes. But from a scientific point of view, the misconception lies in the different structure of brains.
Birds don’t have the same structure of brain as mammals, thus it was considered that they are not capable of innovative ideas or self-consciousness. As many birds showed the capability to solve complex problems and use tools in an inventive way, it was obvious that they are capable of more than indicated by their brain structure. Indeed, although their brain is organised in clusters rather than in sheets of little grey cells (as Hercule Poirot would often say in Agatha Christie’s novels), the signal molecules can nevertheless carry information that is processed complexly enough.
Birds are thus not simple “bird brain” creatures living only to fulfill their basic needs for species survival but can have complex and fulfilling relationships, invent new ways of solving problems and probably even have fun. This also means that they will not simply abandon their young if they are touched by a human, so don’t be afraid to return a young bird that can’t fly back to its nest. Beware though, that most birds will not tolerate repeated disturbances in their environment. In particular, large predators will rather quickly abandon the nest, although birds are generally attached to their young and will try to stay with them.
But what if we only quietly observe them? Do they mind our presence? Actually, they do. As we are watching the birds, they are watching us as well. Our gaze gives them crucial information of our intention. As the predators usually lock their gaze on their victim before attacking, birds are looking for such a clue. In the long term, though, they learn to recognise us and some can even form a kind of relationship. Especially if it involves giving them food. As I’m finishing this blog on the terrace, lunch time is already approaching and our “pet” seagull Mike already paces impatiently on the stone fence near me, expecting a bunch of leftovers asap. So, I have to go. Till next time, be well.
Check my other wildlife and biology stories:
Read more about birds:
- Birds can tell if you are watching them — because they are watching you.
- Birds can recognize people’s faces and know their voices.
- Minds of their own — birds gain respect.
- Do birds have capacity for fun?
- Fact or fiction: Birds (and other critters) abandon their young at the slightest human touch.