CIE Seminar Series 2015 – How does a bird know what nest to build?

Sue HealySPEAKER: Dr Susan Healy, School of Biology, University of St Andrews (Currently on research leave – Centre for Evolutionary Biology, University of WA)
DATE: Friday, 13th March 2015
LOCATION: Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds, Room ka5.303 (former room number ka5.321)
TIME: 12:00 noon
Seminar will also be video linked to the following campuses: Melbourne Campus at Burwood, Room T3.05 and Warrnambool Campus, Room G1.01 (Percy Baxter LT)

ABSTRACT: Since the discovery in 1996 that New Caledonian crows make and use tools, tool manufacture and use by birds has captured the headlines. This is not least because it questions the degree to which primates are considered ‘special’. For both groups, however, it is considered that tool use requires ‘complex’ cognitive abilities.

In this talk I begin by suggesting that nest building by birds shares striking phenotypicBird_Using_Tools similarities with tool use in at least two key features: appropriate material choice and appropriate material manipulation. And yet, the typical assumption is that nest building is entirely innate or genetic and does not require ‘complex’ cognition.

I will go on to describe some of the work conducted by my group where we have set out to discover what birds might learn about nest building and where in the brain activity occurs during nest building.

Along the way, I will point how quite how little we know about a behaviour that would seem to be key to successful reproduction for most birds.

BIO: Sue Healy is a zoologist who works investigates animal cognition and its neural bases in ‘real’ animals. She has worked on spatial memory in food-storing birds (in the lab) and hummingbirds (work ongoing in the Rockies in Canada), sex differences in spatial cognition in mammals and is now addressing the behaviour, cognition and neurobiology of nest building in birds (lab and field).

Sue has spent time in both Psychology (Newcastle, UK and St Andrews) and Biology (Otago, Oxford, Edinburgh and St Andrews) departments as she tries to integrate both theory and data from both fields into her work.

Appointments with guest speaker may be made via