The city life may pose effects to humans like stress and health risks, but this may not be the case for birds. Birds living in the city are smarter and healthier compared to those living in the rural areas.

Researchers from McGill University's Bellairs facility spent the past few months capturing bullfinches (Loxigilla barbadensis) from cities and rural environments. For the first time, they wanted to shed light on the cognitive differences in birds from cities and those from the country or rural areas.

Bullfinches are native to Barbados and the researchers explored if the environment where birds live in has an impact on their cognitive performance. These birds in the island nation are deemed as highly opportunistic and innovative.

The researchers considered many factors in determining the cognitive differences in birds. They tested the two groups of birds using associative learning tasks and innovative problem-solving tasks. Assessment of problem solving, boldness, neophobia, immunocompetence and color discrimination learning were done.

Birds from the city showed superiority in cognitive tests like opening drawers to access food, and bolder in familiar situations, but cautious about new things. The researchers found that city birds are better at innovative problem-solving tasks than country birds. Notably, they also have better immunity compared to birds living in rural environments.

"Our study sheds light on the trade-offs acting on animals exposed to changing environments, particularly in the context of urbanization," the researchers concluded.

Urbanization requires adaptation not only from humans, but also some species that thrive in these areas. When species live in urban environments, they are required to adapt in cognitive, behavioral and physiological trails in order for them to survive.

The birds' exposure to new pathogens in the city may also play an important role in developing immunity, making them more protected from diseases.

Urban birds had adapted enough to their environment for them to have improved chances of fighting off diseases. The study also indicates that humans might be helpful in helping birds improve their intellect, without even knowing it.

The study was published in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

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