These Bird Brains Are Brilliant: National Aviary Show Highlights Bird Intelligence

Nov 23, 2017

Two green-winged macaws fly over the audience in the National Aviary's free-flight theater, then land on separate agility courses. A race ensues between the feathered siblings, Ben and Betsy, to see who can complete the system of ropes and pulleys first. Betsy wins this time, and the crowd goes wild.

Betsy the macaw maneuvers the obstacle course on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.
Credit Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

This is one of a number of bird intelligence tests featured in "Bird Brains," the current interactive show at the Aviary.

Cathy Schlott, curator of behavioral management and education at the National Aviary, said many birds have a level of intelligence similar to a toddler, and need to keep their brains active.

"Birds have this uniquely adapted intelligence to survive in a variety of different environments," she said. "We want people to think about birds as the intelligent species that they are."

Schlott said the Aviary wants to change the way people think of the phrase "bird brain," which has long had negative connotatations.

"When you think of 'bird brain' you should think of someone that's super smart," she said.

"Bird Brains" runs through January 31.