Center for Avian Cognition


Date of this Version



The Auk, Volume 134, 2017, pp. 477–478. DOI: 10.1642/AUK-16-246.1


Copyright 2017 American Ornithological Society. Used by permission.


Over the past 30 years, the study of bird behavior has been completely transformed by the ongoing revolution in cognitive psychology, opening up wholly new perspectives on the mental processes underlying such areas as foraging decisions, social intelligence, problem solving, memory encoding, and communication. Although these studies have contributed to a number of recent popular books, until now there has been no attempt to integrate avian cognition and recent findings in avian neuroanatomy and endocrinology into a single account that is attractive and accessible to a general readership. It is a steep challenge, but Nathan Emery has undertaken it in his remarkable new volume, Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence.

As a scientific text, Bird Brain is an imperfect product, but it is an exceedingly ambitious effort to combine modern research on avian physiology and anatomy with a wide range of findings on behavior and cognitive psychology. The narrative is rendered in an artistically attractive form that is approachable and entertaining for the general public. On the whole, Emery’s book is well worth looking into, if only for the daring of its approach. And if it inspires you to explore the literature further on your own, a well-selected bibliography is included for each chapter.