When a flock of geese fly into the air and a hunter takes aim, which bird is most likely to drop from the sky? A new study published in the journal Biology Letters shows that those birds with larger brains relative to their body size are less likely to be shot by hunters.
The researchers found that those birds with smaller brains (relative to the size of their bodies) were more likely to be shot and catalogued—as were males and larger birds in general. The team looked at a variety of factors such as organ size, body mass, gender, species, color, etc., and found one factor that stood out very clearly from the rest—birds with larger brains were 30 times less likely to be shot and killed. This, the team suggests, indicates that hunting is very likely having an evolutionary impact on animals that are hunted by humans. They do not believe that hunters are specifically targeting smaller species, it's more likely that those with larger brains have learned to be wary of humans.
Brain size is of course not the only possible factor for which bird ends up on a hunter's dinner table. But the ability to distinguish danger with more clarity than your compatriots certainly helps, and the researchers point out that brain size might be part of that ability.