Mockingbirds may look pretty much alike to people, but they can tell us apart and are quick to react to folks they don't like. Birds rapidly learn to identify people who have previously threatened their nests and sounded alarms and even attacked those folks, while ignoring others nearby, researchers report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This shows a bird is much more perceptive of its environment than people had previously suspected," said Douglas J. Levey, a professor in the zoology department of the University of Florida.
"We are a part of their environment and we are a concern to them," Levey said in a telephone interview.
The researchers are studying mockingbirds as part of an effort to better understand how species adapt to urbanization.
With more and more areas being converted into towns and cities, animals that adapt well seem to be those that are especially perceptive about their environment, he said.
"We do not think mockingbirds evolved a specific ability to respond to humans, rather we think that mockingbirds are naturally perceptive about their environment, especially threats to their nests."
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