Local bird author Gisela Kaplan at BRWF

Emeritus Professor in Animal Behaviour Gisela Kaplan
Emeritus Professor in Animal Behaviour Gisela Kaplan

Did you know birds are smart as well as beautiful?

Gisela Kaplan, Emeritus Professor in Animal Behaviour from the University of New England, has proven through ground-breaking research that native birds are clever and that some are as smart as chimpanzees.

In fact, Professor Kaplan contends Australia has some of the oldest living and most intelligent species of birds in the world - including our own backyard swooping Magpie!

"Magpies have feelings; they have memories, they can remember faces, places; they can plan, solve problems and they can even pick which humans have been good or bad towards them," says Professor Kaplan.

"It has also been confirmed in 2004, that some lineages of birds survived the last mass extinction and many of the world's modern birds evolved in the supercontinent called Gondwana, specifically in East Gondwana, now known as Australia."

She adds scientists have verified Australia was a kind of Noah's Ark for birds after the mass extinction of dinosaurs and of flora and fauna across the globe.

Gisela is a Coffs Harbour local and a prolific author of 250 research articles and 22 books, including Tawny Frogmouth, Bird Minds and the bestselling Australian Magpie, with another book to be released towards the end of the year.

She is recognised as one of leading public faces for science in Australia, with her work earning her numerous awards. She was presented with a shared human rights award in 1994, a Federation Community Services Award in 2001 (for services to wildlife), a Wilderness Society Award (2005), was a winner of the Australian Publishing Association Award in the single book category (2005) and has received a prestigious Whitney Awards in 2016 for Bird Minds. She is also known as one of the leading ornithologists in the world.

Professor Kaplan will be speaking at the upcoming Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival, which runs from Friday June 7 to Sunday 9 June, and she is keen to share her research and answer your questions on our smart backyard birds.

"I hope to inspire people about native birds by writing about their extraordinary qualities. Our old growth forests are being destroyed and the more we know about our native animals, their uniqueness and intelligence the more committed one can become to insist on protecting them for future generations".

Gisela is appearing at three sessions at the festival:

'Native Birds In An Ancient Landscape', Friday 7 June at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, 10.30 - 11.30 am;

'Science Fact, Science Fiction and the Environment', Saturday 8 June, 12.00 noon - 1.00 pm at the Bellingen Memorial Hall;

'Birds in your Backyard', on Sunday 9 June, 1.00 - 2.00 pm at the Bellingen Youth Hub.

More information can be found at: www.bellingenwritersfestival.com.au