Have you ever forgotten where you had put the television remote that you “just had” in your hands? Maybe you can’t quite remember where the car keys were last, or have totally “blanked” on that guy’s name who you were just introduced to…Was it Kyle? Kevin? Ken? Bugger.
Some amazing research reveals that if we were just a little bit more “bird brained” these problems may become a thing of the past.
Every autumn, the black-capped chickadee roams a territory covering tens of square miles, gathering seeds and storing them in hundreds of hiding places both in trees and on the ground. Over the harsh winter that follows, the tireless little songbird re-visits these caches to feed.
“The chickadee’s unerring spatial memory is remarkable enough,” says Colin Saldanha, assistant professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University and an anatomist who has studied songbirds over the past 14 years.
But it is what happens inside the tiny songbird’s brain that Saldanha finds the most amazing. In the fall, as the chickadee is gathering and storing seeds, Saldanha says, “its hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for spatial organization and memory in many vertebrates, expands in volume by approximately 30 percent by adding new nerve cells.”
In layman’s terms: The chickadees brain actually grows in size during autumn months in order to better remember where it has hidden its winter food stash.
“In the spring, when its feats of memory are needed less, the chickadee’s hippocampus shrinks back to its normal size,” Saldanha says.
You can learn more about the black-capped chickadee or many other favorite birds with our Backyard Bird Directory for FREE.