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Bird Brains: How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think

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Bird Brains: How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1A0116
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • For multiple registrations, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses.

Scientists are reevaluating the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they think, communicate, forage, breed, and survive. No longer are birds seen as simple-minded flying automatons, but rather as highly intelligent creatures capable of astonishing mental feats.

Some birds pack their calls with far more meaning than we ever thought possible. Others use surprising strategies for food-finding, from sniffing out prey using mainly their sense of smell  (which we thought they didn’t use at all) to spreading fire. Birds give gifts and they steal, they dance and they drum, they paint their creations or paint themselves, they communicate in ways that resemble language and they summon playmates with a special call that may hold the key to the evolution of laughter.

 Birds also demonstrate mental abilities we once considered uniquely human: deception, manipulation, and cheating, as well as cooperation, collaboration, altruism, culture, and play.

Jennifer Ackerman, author of the New York Times bestseller The Genius of Birds, discusses her investigation into the bird way of being and the recent scientific research that dramatically shifts our understanding of how birds live and think. In an illustrated talk drawing on personal observations, the latest science, and her bird-related travel around the world, Ackerman explores the latest studies on the ingenuity of birds revealed in some of their surprising behaviors, research that is upending old ideas about what is normal in birds and what we thought they were capable of. 

Ackerman’s newest book, The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think (Penguin Press), is available for sale.

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