Monday, 11 October 2010

Brainy birds

I have moved the birdbath.  
I left it in a pathway between some large plants until the birds were using it regularly,  but now it is the spot that I wanted it.  I wasn't sure that the birds would like it in the open like this,  but since I moved it a few days ago,  they seem quite happy with the new position.  It is right by the salvia plant that had the ladybirds on it...  once that grows bigger, there'll be more "cover" from predators and the local residents (birds) should be really happy.
I went out to take the washing from the clothes-line and checked the water on the way, only to find some interesting leaves floating there....
 ... I even checked the aroma, to confirm just what it was....
 ... it is a piece of leaf material from my worm wood....
This is the closest plant and it is quite a long way from the bird bath... and in quite an obscure spot.   It can only have got there if it was brought by a bird.  I planted this close to the chickens.  I have always had wormwood near chickens... it is supposed to be an insect repellant that reduces the problems of lice.

I was reminded of a birds nest that I found with a piece of wormwood in it...  it was last summer, and it crossed my mind at the time that the birds were deliberately making use of the herb from my garden.  By now I am convinced.

Wormwood and rue are both known as plants that repel insects and are even used as worming medications (vermifuges) when taken orally.  I can't help but think that the local birds are using the sprigs of my lovely plant to repel parasites and perhaps even to rid themselves of worms... and that these birds are very clever.   In the past,  I have studied formally the behaviour of birds and I am aware of their intelligence, use of tools and understanding of social networks.  In fact, when trying to find other models for the social behaviours of the species that I was studying (Gallinula tenebrosa... the dusky moorhen) I needed to consider the literature relating to primates rather than the shorter-lived bird species of Northern Europe, about which much of the literature has been written.

My discovery today, confirming for me that local birds (many of them feral) are able to make use of local herbal remedies only confirms my opinion of their intelligence.

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