Bird-brained?

An epithet some might apply to me, though I prefer absent- or butterfly-minded, or better still, laterally cognitive.  However I may try and dress it up, I have long ago had to come to terms with the fact that I live both alone and with an idiot.  This very e’en, it took three attempts before I manage to exit the house with everything necessary – and that wasn’t even a particularly bad performance.  Perhaps my brain is just too highly trained?

Anyway, this subject was not supposed to further indulge my rampant egomania – but instead consider the vexèd question of avian intelligence.  I will freely admit that some birds are almost the entire hamper short of a picnic.  The pheasant, and in particular the male of the species, seems almost unutterably stupid – as but one example, it is clear when they attempt to roost at night that the average pheasant believes it is roughly the size of  a house sparrow.  This makes for a noisy – and one assumes, rather uncomfortable – few minutes each evening.  Others birds, the corvids in particular, are widely regarded as being really quite bright – with jays regularly out-witting squirrels.  As a result, it seems rather unfair to use bird-brained as a synonym (albeit an informal one) for silly.   I fear it represents a rather mammal-centric point of view.

I was reminded of this injustice this bright and breezy morning as I cycled into Cambridge.  In the area I think of as rabbit-alley – where from the gloaming until dawn, the cyclist’s long-eared nemesis lurks – I startled a small bevy (or they certainly would have been, had they been quails – or, indeed, attractive game birds of a rather different kind) of red-legged partridge.  These are rather a smart looking game bird, which I’m sure wouldn’t be caught dead in a pear tree on any day of Christmas.  Whereas a similar grouping of bunnies would have run towards my oncoming velocipede, the partridge much more wisely ran away from impending doom utilising their rapid, and rather amusing, gait.  Once again birds demonstrated superior avian intellect when compared with the duller-witted mammals that share their habitat.

I’d like to see the phrase bird-brained replaced with bunny-brained.  It retains the alliteration, but seems much more zoologically accurate – and avoids tarring (let’s face it, they’re already feathered) an entire Class (Aves – yes Carl, it’s been a while) with the same brush.  Or would this be considered PC (or in my case, Mac) gone mad?

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