It’s unfair whenever one alludes to a person with a shallow understanding as someone with a “bird brain.” Well, probably because birds have small brains as a consequence of their size. Size however does not matter when it comes to cognitive ability actually. A tiny micro SD memory card half the size of our pinky’s nail could accommodate 128 gigabytes of data. That is almost the size of a big library! But let me share my observation.
Whenever I repair in my garden to rest my eyes from almost half a day of reading and writing, I am oftentimes entertained by a multitude of colorful flyers, birds of different classification, from the local “mayang pula” (Lonchura Atricapilla) which was once (before 1995) the national bird to “mayang simbahan: (tree sparrow) an invasive variety from Europe and common in urban areas. There is also the “pipit” (Anthus Hodgsoni) a small long beaked bird with high pitched and lark like tweets. And there is the bully brown shrike commonly referred to as “tarat” (Lanius Cristatus). Well, so on and so forth.
I have seen them all in my ancestral community in Luzon and now here in Mindanao, they are still the same and no different from their counterpart from other islands. They are as native and perennial as Filipinos.
But what amazed me while observing these awesome aviators is their intelligence. That is right. They may have a small brain but their intelligence is something to reckon. A number of pulang maya pairs have found sanctuary in my garden. They have built nests on my plants and at times on the vines of my local grapes. The mayang simbahan on the other hand have their nests on the ceiling of my house.
Day in and day out, I would notice that they are meticulous and indefatigable builders. They would fly out, sometimes in various places, miles away from my house but they would soon roost as soon as they get their comeuppance somewhere. I made a little experiment placing luminous green paint on the twig they would land on before they enter their nest so that I could see them from a distance whenever they would fly out.
Surprisingly, whenever I would ride on my motorbike to visit nearby plantation, I would notice birds in formation hovering around and some have green luminous paint on their tails! Some of them are from my residence!
What surprised me more is their sense of direction. Note that birds do not have flight plans like planes. They fly in different, diverse and at times from my vantage point, altered routes. Motorists would get lost even if they are using roads what more birds without any designated paths at all. But there they are, all homing in precisely on schedule, roosting on their respective nests as if guided by compass and with expensive watches and altimeters! This is what intelligence is all about.
They have mastery of their routes whatever it takes.
I recalled a study conducted by one of my classmates in a graduate course in psychology where he tried to determine the IQ of various professionals who are practicing in their respective field for more than five years. The research revealed that those with high intelligence quotient were those from taxi drivers! I would even presume that all professional drivers have high intelligence quotient since they have keen sense of directions, sharp perception of various links and ways and higher alert threshold.
And to think that birds were older in the evolutionary stream in the animal kingdom. It is even noted that dinosaurs, those giant monsters that inhabited the earth thousands of years before mankind began its presence felt have almost identical genealogy as that of present day birds! I just don’t know whether such intelligence presupposes thinking also.
If at all it matters that intelligence is what is needed for survival, then birds have higher chances since they came from a long, long way. It is no longer survival of the fittest, but survival of the best.
And then there is another idiom, “birds of a feather flock together.” It simply implies that intelligent people not only flock but understand one another.
For once, be someone like a bird accustomed to superiority and feel freedom.
By the way, yesterday I went to the pet shop and bought a big cage where I filled it with several birds. I tried to be like Hollywood actor Richard Gere. As soon as I got home, I opened their cage and saw them all fly! I never got silly for losing something but felt blessed.