Some interesting tidbits I found on a website while looking up mockingbirds. I thought others might enjoy this. I'm going to quote them here rather then paraphrase.
Green HeronThe corvid bird family -- including the crows and jays -- have remarkable intellectual powers. Scrub Jays are adept at concealing food in dozens of locations, and are smart enough to avoid hiding their food while another bird is watching, or to move their food if they know they have been observed. Moreover, they can remember which kind of meal they stashed. A favored food -- delectable moth larvae -- is recovered earliest. The birds ignore locations once the food has spoiled, but still remember the location for less-perishable items like peanuts. This suggests they have an "what/when/where" episode-like recall of activities that were thought only to be present in humans, as well as the ability to anticipate other's behavior.
Other experiments show Jays can plan ahead. When moved around according to a daily schedule inside compartmentalized cages, after a few trials the birds learned to secrete food in locations where they were accustomed to being hungry -- even hiding favorite foods in locations where regular food was already available.
My personal experience shows Jays are capable of surprising intelligence. During a camping trip, we unpacked a large pile of objects on a picnic table in Chiricahua National Park in Arizona. A wild Mexican Jay (similar to the one pictured above) immediately selected the one bag containing cookies and pecked it open -- presumably recognizing the picture of a cookie on the front.
Swainson's ThrushA Florida resident developed the habit of feeding crumbs to an amiable heron living near his apartment. Watching the bird closely, he noticed the bird would not always eat the bread -- but would carry it to a pond and throw it into the water. When fish came to feed, the heron would calmly eat the fish -- a meal evidently much more appealing to her palate. If crumbs drifted away, the bird would retrieve and reposition them. Similar activity has been noticed by other herons using insects or even feathers for bait -- remarkable reasoning ability in a bird!
Willy WagtailThis tiny bird is able to split its brain in half while migrating -- letting one side sleep, while the other brain hemisphere remains awake. Researchers noticed one eye closes while the other eye is conscious and watchful. Monitoring the thrush's brain waves in simulated day/night migration cycles has confirmed that one side of the brain shows sleep patterns while the other side continues to function normally.
CanaryI work at a public science centre in Western Australia. This afternoon I witnessed a Willy Wagtail engage in some very interesting behaviour. The bird had entered the downstairs shopping centre via a pair of large glass automatic doors and was hopping around feeding off food scraps. Apparently full, he took flight over to the doors. Without actually touching the glass, he apparently ascertained they were closed and landed on the ground in front of them, then hopped off to one side. He waited for around 20 seconds until a patron walked up, then took flight and headed out of the doors as they slid open. Apparently, according to shopping centre staff, he has been doing this daily for years. He will wait outside until a patron trips the door sensor and will use the same process to exit! Quite fascinating, and indicates intelligence beyond that traditionally ascribed I would say.
European MagpieThis quintessential songbird was already entertaining natives of the windy Canary Islands in the early 1400's when Spanish monks began exporting them to Europe. They only sold the male birds, who were better singers, and couldn't reproduce. Germans later learned the trick of breeding captive birds, and Canaries became prized processions of royalty and gypsies alike -- singing tunes by Handel and Bach painstakingly taught with a tiny musical instrument called a flageolet, or a mechanical hand-cranked music box called a serinette. Books of music specially composed for canaries were published, and a bird might be tutored by a skilled "bird-whistler" called a siffleur d'oiseaux. Contests were wagered over birds (blinded with hot wires, to reputedly improve their focus) singing as many as six hundred songs in a hour under strict rules. In more recent times, underground coal miners were cheered by the songs of canaries whose sensitive dispositions served as early warning for coal gas poisoning.
MockingbirdLike other members of the corvids, the Magpie is a social animal with complex and frequent vocalizations. They love to steal and hoard shiny objects -- including the wedding ring you temporarily set aside while gardening. Magpies develop this ability in the first few months of life -- and like Scrub Jays, retain an episode-like recollection of the "what/where/when" details about their stashes.
However, the magpie can also perform an intellectual feat that makes it unique among avian species -- recognizing itself in a mirror.
Self-recognition can be tested by placing a hidden mark on an animal that is only visible in a mirror. When the animal begins scratching or pawing at the mark, this indicates the animal understands the reflection is an image of itself. This intelligence test has been successfully performed with elephants, dolphins and apes -- and now in Magpies, marked with yellow spots on their throats. Three out of five of the birds quickly spotted the mark in the mirror and attempted to remove it.
The birds also showed other interesting behaviors -- lifting their feet and watching the result in a mirror, or peeking behind the mirror -- activities identical to a young human child discovering a mirror for the first time. These observations suggest that in addition to sharing our love of conversation, society and curiosity about the world around us -- Magpies also possess the elusive quality of self-awareness.
In an experiment that could be repeated in almost any American back yard, Douglas Levey (et al) grabbed headlines by showing Mockingbirds can distinguish between human individuals, and will attack persons they recognize as threatening -- while ignoring others they have decided are harmless. The birds recognize and remember people based upon as few as two encounters that can last less than 30 seconds.