What does it mean to be smart? Some say ac­ing a math test puts you at the top of the class. Oth­ers ar­gue win­ning first place in a spell­ing com­pe­ti­tion makes you a brainiac. For an­i­mals, it means hav­ing the brains to sur­vive.



There are two things you should know about Scrub Jays. They don’t like to share and they’ll go to great lengths to keep their food stash a se­cret. This bird knows that if an­other Scrub Jay is watch­ing while it hides a nut, there’s a good chance it will keep a men­tal note of where the nut was stashed, swoop in and then steal it. To avoid this, the first Scrub Jay will re­turn to the lo­ca­tion and move the nut to a se­cret lo­ca­tion when the po­ten­tial thief isn’t around.


Ravens get smarter as they age. Re­searchers have found that young and adult ravens act dif­fer­ently when feed­ing on a car­cass. Young ravens will holler dur­ing their feed­ing to at­tract other young ravens to the scene. Young ravens like to have oth­ers ravens around to avoid com­pe­ti­tion with other types of scav­engers. Adults, on the other hand, pair up and chow down qui­etly so as not to draw at­ten­tion to the food — keep­ing the whole car­cass to them­selves.


Did you know some an­i­mals liv­ing in the city have big­ger brains than an­i­mals liv­ing in the coun­try­side? It’s true! Small mam­mals like bats, mice, shrews, squir­rels and even voles that live in ci­ties have evolved to have larger brains, and that gives them an edge in find­ing food, mov­ing through the city and spot­ting threats.


When grey squir­rels spot a po­ten­tial preda­tor, they usu­ally warn other squir­rels. They do this us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of barks and tail flags (flick­ing their tails around in the air). But be­tween traf­fic, con­struc­tion and chat­ter, city life is noisy, and those barks can go un­no­ticed. Luck­ily these ur­ban squir­rels are smart! They don’t use barks as of­ten in the city and have started com­mu­ni­cat­ing more reg­u­larly through tail flags to get their point across.


Clark’s Nutcracker will col­lect up to 30,000 pine seeds in the month of Novem­ber and then bury them. But it won’t bury the seeds in a sin­gle place. Nope! It spreads out the seeds in a 520-square-kilo­me­tre area — that’s as big as a lot of ci­ties. Here’s where things get in­ter­est­ing. Over the next eight months, the Clark’s Nutcracker will find 90 per cent of the buried seeds — even if they’re cov­ered in snow!

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