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Bird Minds

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Bird Minds

Cognition and Behaviour of Australian Native Birds

Gisela Kaplan   University of New England

Photographs, Illustrations
280 pages, 245 x 170 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

    Paperback - August 2015
ISBN: 9781486300181 - AU $ 45.00

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In her comprehensive and carefully crafted book, Gisela Kaplan demonstrates how intelligent and emotional Australian birds can be. She describes complex behaviours such as grieving, deception, problem solving and the use of tools. Many Australian birds cooperate and defend each other, and exceptional ones go fishing by throwing breadcrumbs in the water, extract poisonous parts from prey and use tools to crack open eggshells and mussels. The author brings together evidence of many such cognitive abilities, suggesting plausible reasons for their appearance in Australian birds.

Bird Minds is the first attempt to shine a critical and scientific light on the cognitive behaviour of Australian land birds. In this fascinating volume, the author also presents recent changes in our understanding of the avian brain and links these to life histories and longevity.

Following on from Gisela’s well-received books on the Australian Magpie and the Tawny Frogmouth, as well as two earlier titles on birds, Bird Minds contends that the unique and often difficult conditions of Australia's environment have been crucial for the evolution of unusual complexities in avian cognition and behaviour.


  • Up-to-date insights on avain neurobiology based on the latest research
  • Casts a new light on why birds behave the way they do
  • A final chapter highlights the important implications for the care of native birds


1 Australian conditions and their consequences
2 Brain size, long life and resourcefulness
3 Foragers, food-switchers and innovators
4 Tool use
5 Nest and bower builders
6 Play behaviour
7 Mimicry and imitation – the cognitive dimensions
8 Social and vocal learning
9 Emotions, communication and cognition
10 Communicating intentionally
11 Abstract concepts and states of mind
12 Which native birds are smart?


View the full table of contents.


 This book is written for a general audience, especially amateur ornithologists and naturalists but it will equally appeal to specialists in bird behaviour and students working in biology, comparative psychology, cognitive ecology, field ornithology, zoology, aviculture and animal welfare. It will also be of interests to veterinarians, zoo personnel, bird lovers and members of other groups concerned with birds. 

 "Bird Minds provides a highly readable and scholarly overview of the intelligence of birds, one that seamlessly integrates a wide variety of research by behavioural ecologists and comparative cognitive psychologists in a way that does justice to the goals of each”
Thomas Zentall, Animal Behaviour 114, 2016, pp. 12

"Bird Minds is a book that nicely combines the best scientific rigor with stories of bird behaviours that we can all appreciate… Kaplan uses her broad knowledge of human and animal neurology to enhance the interpretation of bird behaviours, and this adds a further dimension to the book."
Alison Turner, Canberra Bird Notes 40(3), 2015, pp. 298

"I recommend this book to all who value our birds... it is a valuable reference of importance for your bookshelf and especially if readily available on your desk. I will re-read many pages and I suspect that will be similar for readers who will want to revisit various topics"
Gil Porter, Warbler (Southern Queensland BirdLife e-newsletter), Vol 5(1), March 2016, pp.21-22

"I highly recommend Dr. Kaplan's most recent gem... Bird Minds would be an excellent book for researchers, advanced undergraduate and graduate courses, and for others who just want to know about the fascinating animals with whom we share our magnificent world."
Marc Bekoff, "Bird Minds: An Outstanding Book About Australian Natives", Psychology Today, 4 April 2016

"This book is easy to read, covers a breadth of cognitive queries, and discusses a number of Australia’s more prominent and unique bird species. However, I would argue the true value of possessing it is in its potential to broaden the understanding any reader – regardless of their education – has of the way animals other than ourselves think and make sense of the world around them. All of us, even children, ponder this question from time to time. Here, Kaplan gifts the reader with the latest knowledge from the frontline of research, and in doing so ensures they never look at a magpie the same way again."
Christopher McCormack, Wild Melbourne (blog), 27/11/15


 Gisela Kaplan is a Professor at the University of New England and an Honorary Professor at the Queensland Brain Institute. She is the author of over 250 research articles and 21 books and has conducted groundbreaking research into vocal learning, communication and cognition in birds and other vertebrates. She holds two PhDs and an honorary DSc for her contributions to life sciences. In addition to extensive research on birds in the wild, for the past two decades she has also raised and rehabilitated injured native birds.  

Related Titles
An Atlas of the Birds of NSW & the ACT     Australian Wildlife After Dark    Double Helix Issue 04    Indicators and Surrogates of Biodiversity and Environmental Change    All About Garden Wildlife Of Australia    Birds of the Darwin Region    Double Helix Issue 02  


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