And the results? "We found that not only were birds from urbanized areas better at innovative problem-solving tasks than bullfinches from rural environments, but that, surprisingly, urban birds also had a better immunity than rural birds," said lead author Jean-Nicolas Audet in a statement.
The healthier immune system finding countered an assumption the scientists had made.
"Since urban birds were better at problem-solving," said Audet, "we expected that there would be a trade-off, and that the immunity would be lower, just because we assumed that you can't be good at everything. In fact, both traits are costly. It seems that in this case, the urban birds have it all."
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What accounts for the extra smarts of the urban birds?
The researchers said the city birds' adaptation to urban life left them better able to exploit new resources than the country birds. The urban birds were bolder than the country variety - no surprise, given they have to live among humans and sometimes need to come close to the large bipeds in order to snare snacks. (However, the city fliers had, strangely, a greater fear of unfamiliar things in their surroundings than did the rural birds.)
So, then, at least for the bullfinches of Barbados, street smarts trump country thinking.