RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Do Birds Have Feelings?

This morning on the National Public Radio show Living on Earth, I heard an interview (listen here) with Lisa Couturier, author of The Hopes of Snakes: And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape. (Listen to Jan 25 interview with Diane Rehm here). A work of nature essays dedicated to urban wildlife, the book challenges us to see animals as having hopes and feelings--not human hopes--but desires for food, shelter, and other needs that we can relate to.

I've felt this for a long time. Part of the joy of birding is to get into the world of the try and understand and appreciate each bird's desires and motivations--to try and figure out why the bird does what it does and to appreciate its view of the world. This morning at the bird feeder, a male Red-bellied Woodpecker landed next to a Mourning Dove and opened its mouth and lunged at the dove until the dove flew away. Then the woodpecker got up higher onto the platform feeder to eat cracked corn and other seeds. As I watched this I had to wonder, what was up with that? What would make the woodpecker threaten the dove? Surely it could have shared the platform with the dove? But it didn't. Fascinating to speculate about the motivations of a woodpecker...and worth spending some time looking watching to try and understand.

The answer to the question raised by this post. Of course they have feelings. They can be mysterious and hard to understand. But birds have complicated emotional lives...with hopes, fears, and desires. If you can tap into that, you can start to experience if only distantly, the world as lived by birds. Ancient traditions structured by their physiology and learned customs of behavior. You don't have to fly to a distant planet to encounter strange exotic beings...they are right here among us. Just step outdoors and see what your bird neighbors are doing. It will make your life richer.


D from Toronto said...

We have been watching a mother bird sit on her 4 little eggs in a nest she made in a hanging basket at my mom's. This morning my mother came out to find the nest and eggs had been destroyed. We are devastated. Has any work been done or study been released which discusses what mother birds do or feel when this happens?

Anonymous said...

I wanted to know the same thing
today I watched two crows at a robins nest and chased the crows away. I went to the nest and either they ate the eggs or the birds< I felt so sad for them

Anonymous said...

I mean I felt bad for the parent birds

Anonymous said...

I don't think they have feelings like we would experience them, but perhaps only instinctive ones, such as sadness for the loss of the eggs, but not because the mother loved them, but because now she has to lay new ones and spend more time. Or that a mate has died, but the reason a penguin would not mate again is because it's sort of like a one-go trip when you mate.

Anonymous said...

Do pidgeons have feelings ?

Anonymous said...


SabrenaW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites