On a somewhat different take but having to do with avian intelligence…

My young Moluccan cockatoo, Boo, was playing on the top of his cage and something happened outside in front of my house that startled him. He flew towards the back of the house and landed on my dog's bed. My dog, Willy, was horrendously abused so could be unpredictable and he took off after Boo. This happened in a split second… Boo turned, stood firmly and fluffed himself up (to look big) and screamed "NO!". Willy stopped in his tracks. Everybody got a kiss on the head and Boo was returned safely to his cage.

I should also say, that I raise cockatoos much like they would be raised in a wild flock (where they stay with their parents for the first year or so), and they sleep with me for the first few years. So I slept with a dachshund on each side of me and a baby cockatoo on my chest. So the dogs were used to the birds and being near them… it was the sudden adrenaline rush that could make Willy unpredictable.

One more story…
I would sit with Peaches, my elder Moluccan cockatoo, also badly abused (almost murdered), and I'd tell him stories. I always made it a point to smile and be positive. He started an odd behavior… he would lean in close to my face (a little daunting with that beak!) and he'd squint his eyes at me. He did this repeatedly. I do believe he was smiling (kind of like being in the operating room and reading everyone's expressions above their surgical masks). I'm nearsighted so I tend to look at things up close, and so the leaning in was in imitation of that, I think. 

Oh and just one more…
Boo will start singing (badly, kind of like a 5 yr old in the bathtub) when he sees me take out my guitar. Interestingly, I don't sing when I play guitar (I play instrumental pieces). He's put together singing with the idea of guitar music and goes from there and is quite the performer.

They are very bright and silly and emotional creatures. While life in captivity is far from ideal, I do the best I can to give them a safe and happy home.


On Jan 22, 2014, at 12:17 PM, Barry K. MacKay <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Shorebirds are even more spectacular, in some respects, than starlings because they are light below, dark above, and so in addition to the rapidly shifting configuration of the flock, waves of light and dark flow through it as we see first their bellies, then their backs.
Barry Kent MacKay
Bird Artist, Illustrator
Studio: (905)-472-9731
From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- [mailto:SCIART-[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Linda Feltner
Sent: January-22-14 9:36 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCIART] (TAN) " down the rabbit hole" Stories
They learned some years ago that birds fly in these large formations by visual clues from the bird next to them. It was documented or confirmed by some sort of cool test, and I will find that when I can. I'm packing to teach a 3-day workshop in bird drawing!
Birds have an extraordinary reflexes and coordination. Their pupils are controlled by faster and different muscles than the human eye. Their eyesight in general is keener, blood vessels don't get in the way (like ours do). Their circulatory and respiratory system is efficient and allows instant energy upon command. Their super-flexible neck, head and body allows the acrobatics. I'm sure the Cornell articles are more specific. 
Thanks for posting the link, it worked fine for me. 
I've seen flocks of shorebirds do this in Washington State, a glistening cloud, indeed.
Linda M. Feltner Artist, LLC
P.O. Box 325
Hereford, AZ 85615
(520) 803-0538

On Jan 22, 2014, at 6:18 AM, Barbara Harmon wrote:

Also learned from the Cornell blog that apparently (at least with Starlings) the birds are consistently coordinating with their seven nearest neighbors. But beyond that they are still somehow able to coordinate with other birds all the way across the flock... and they use the term “effective perceptive range" for this.
And as you said Barry, they are typically exhibiting this behavior in avoidance of a predator.  
On Jan 22, 2014, at 7:39 AM, Barry K. MacKay wrote:

My favourite story about this behaviour came from artist John James Audubon…and we will never see its likes again, nor be able to verify what he claimed.
As I recall he reported that he was watching an enormous flock of Passenger Pigeons flying by, when suddenly a Peregrine Falcon swooped down into them.   The flock swerved, in unison, to avoid the raptor.


Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at 


Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at 


Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at