The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman is a close look at all we have recently learned about birds’ abilities and intelligence. Birds may be small, but they know what they are doing. In writing of this, Ackerman also delves into the difficulties of creating meaningful studies, of designing tests that the birds will take. Each chapter also contains a careful definition of what is being measured and by whom–starting with wrestling with the concept of “intelligence” in general. Ultimately, Ackerman turns to writing about types of intelligence—tool use, social intelligence, vocal ability, aesthetic concerns, special and temporal intelligence, and adaptive genius. This means that some birds are discussed multiple times in different categories, others star in a single chapter.
The text is focused heavily on the overall factual report rather than anecdote, but there are enough of those to help keep things from being too dry. Ackerman’s sources are wide-ranging including personal communication with researchers, previous books, internet articles, and an impressive array of journal studies. The book takes serious focus to read; Ackerman is looking at scientific study, not working on on ease-of-reading. It is more than worth the time for anyone interested in birds and/or animal intelligence, but don’t plan on carrying the book around to read in five minute intervals while standing in line or waiting to meet a friend.
The Genius of Birds comes out on April 12, 2016. Look for it it on Amazon.
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