What goes on in a ‘Bird Brain’?

On Saturday afternoon, I spotted a Great Blue Heron sitting on a branch, looking down at the dead one floating in the water.


He stayed very still for quite some time taking in the scene below him, before eventually flying away.


Last year at the Green Cay Nature Reserve, a Great Blue was standing motionless as if guardingΒ  the remains of another, absolutely undettered by the hoard of people taking photos of the pitiful scene.


It made me wonder if birds do mourn their dead, just as we do. How little we know about the ‘inner lives’ of animals. I was just reading a fascinating review of a book by award winning environmental writer, Carl Safina ‘Beyond Words…..what animals think and feel’. It really sounds like an interesting read. I also found an engrossing article on Wiki about Bird Intelligence, which sheds some light on the subject.

Hope you all had a great weekend. Our dinner with friends last night was sublime; delicious food and great conversation. Happy Monday to you.


95 comments on “What goes on in a ‘Bird Brain’?

  1. I have witnessed birds showing a type of ‘wait’ emotion, they’re not sure what has happened, not sure what to do. Sometimes calling out for their mate. I have teared up at times, just couldn’t help myself feeling a sense of loss for them. A touching post, Sylvia. πŸ™‚

  2. I’m positive birds are far more intelligent than usually thought. Your moving photos demonstrate this. Thank you for the links they were very interesting.

  3. I’ve always been fascinated by the way animals mourn their dead, especially elephants. I never thought that about birds though, very interesting. I’ve bookmarked your links to return you, thank you Sylvia xx

  4. How could anyone be indifferent to animal emotions at a sight like this? I’m sure many “scientists” will come up with very “scientific” explanations, even though it is so crystal clear that the sight and presence of the dead bird has a definite impact on the living one by its side.

  5. Sylvia, I really liked your photos of the Great Blue Heron looking and seeming to study the underbrush.
    Then, the Great Blue Heron standing by the side of dead remains, made me sad, almost get tears in my eyes. They seem to show depth and understanding for each other, maybe they do mourn the deceased. Otherwise, this position would not make sense. Also, made me wonder, do they want the deceased bird’s body to not be eaten or “disturbed?”

    • Thanks so much, Robin. I’m sure they do mourn their loss of a friend or a mate. This evening, I noticed the Great Blue’s head just poking up over the bank where I’d seen the dead bird. He was standing in the water right next to what were left of the feathers. Just standing, as though on guard. I wanted to go and hug him, but of course that would have made him fly away, so I crept away and left him in peace with his sadness. 😦

      • I am easily one who gets sentimental and my 3 kids joke that “I cry over Hallmark card commercials!” So, this bird may be one who haunts me awhile, Sylvia. hugs to you for caring.

  6. Some birds mate for life so I’m sure there’s a mourning period. Makes me sad.
    Glad to hear you had a delicious, home-cooked dinner, Sylvia. Makes me happy πŸ™‚

  7. Sylvia, after living with cats for as many years as I have, I KNOW animals have emotions and feel deeply. How could it be otherwise? People don’t realize how deeply sensitive animals are, something we people could learn from. ❀

  8. The species that have the same mate through life, I believe they know a form of sadness or loss -I think for example elephants, some species of birds and several other animal species.

    Very well captured, Sylvia… πŸ™‚

  9. After the two destructive hailstorms last year, one of my Mynahs never returned. The other one has recently come back to be fed. Maybe he also needed time before returning to his old haunts without his partner.

  10. We experienced something that convinced me birds bond and have emotions. A bird injured itself and fell to its death on our porch. Another, what we considered was its mate descended onto a step and stayed there watching it for a very long time, head bowed. Whether we were projecting emotions onto that bird or not, it stayed and didn’t move upon seeing us. When it flew off to a tree we buried its friend while it watched. Then it flew away. I don’t believe much but I do believe that all living things feel, whether it be emotions or their innate nature expressing its bonds, etc. It’s the aliveness that runs through us all. But that’s just one woman’s humble opinion. Thank you for this post.

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