Monday, 13 April 2015

Bird Brain Benefits.

picture by Marina Wild

Last Saturday was chilly with patches of blue sky and occasional fast and furious hail storms. During one of the sunny spells my oldest son, who is our spotter-of-interesting-things, pointed out a jackdaw sitting pecking at an apple core on a wall at the bottom of the Rahoon road. Soon enough another jackdaw landed on the wall about a yard away from the apple eater. The apple eater stopped eating and looked up at the new arrival. The newly arrived bird stopped hopping and looked back. Neither bird made a sound. It was a tense moment, deserving a theme tune from Eric Morricone, perhaps ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ from The Good, the Bad, the Ugly… 

Time stretched, a cold breeze robbed the heat from the day. Me and my boys watched mesmerised waiting for the dramatic climax. And then it happened... And three days later we’re still talking about what we witnessed.

The apple eater bent his head back to his meal and carried on pecking, the other bird swaggered closer and then sat back and waited. The silence remained but it was of a more companionable nature. After a few more pecks the first bird hopped away and let his (or her) companion enjoy the tasty snack. After the second bird had eaten its fill, both birds flew away together.

‘They were sharing,’ observed my oldest in an impressed voice. My youngest, the philosopher of the family, asked, ‘Are they in love?’ I had no immediate answer but the birds we saw were certainly sharing a treat and seemed to be very relaxed in each other’s company.

When we got home, I followed up my son’s love question by checking out Mooney goes wild  factsheet on Jackdaws and discovered that after a period of youthful shagging about, the creatures mate for life. Some male Jackdaws do have two partners, or perhaps it could be said that two females choose to share one male. Whatever way you look at it, they seem committed to their relationships.

Jackdaws appear to have a pretty good approach to life, and sharing is an important part of their society. In fact, surprisingly, they give gifts more than most primates, (those cute creatures with grasping hands, fingernails instead of claws, who rely on sight more than smell, one of whom stares back at you every time you look in the mirror). There is one primate, however, that does match the sharing skills of the jackdaws, and that thankfully is Homo sapiens sapiens.

According to the article ‘7 health benefits of sharing’ there is an increasing amount of research  that shows that sharing between humans ‘builds trust, releases health-boosting hormones, increases positive social interaction with others, and promotes cooperation’. So next time somebody calls you a bird brain takes it as a compliment and give them an apple. You never know they may end up being your mate for life.

Related articles:

Falling in Love, Staying romantic

‘7 health benefits of sharing’

Food sharing in jackdaws, Corvusmonedula: what, why and with whom?

What does it mean to be human?

Mooney goes wild factsheet: Jackdaws 

What is a primate? 

The RSPB has a great website for helping you identify birds. See Bird Identifier

Thanks to Marina Wild for permission to use her picture. For more on her art work see Marina Wild

For more on my work check out: Rab Fulton Stories
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