© 2020 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Scarlet Experiment: Birds and Humans in America

Heather Paul
A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) in Iowa City

Adding up the costs of bird seed, travel, and birding tools, birders spend more than 20 billion dollars a year just to look at them, but birds also get in the way. Humans tend to consider some birds good and some birds bad. For example, the blue jay was long considered a morally corrupt bird due to its behavior of raiding other birds' nests, but in recent years, the bird has been recognized for its intellect.


"Birds are intelligent, but their intelligence is different than human intelligence in a lot of ways, because people have started studying birds' brains, and their brains are radically different from human brains," says  Jeff Karnicky, associate professor of English at Drake University.

"They don't match up in the same way. They don't have the same kind of folds in their brains that humans do. So, for me where this is going is that, we need to acknowledge that there are other kinds of intelligences that exist in our world with us. That our moral codes, they are not going to follow; but they do have a different kind of intelligence and that's something to respect and pay attention to."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Karnicky about his new book , Scarlet Experiment: Birds and Humans in America, in which he explores our complicated relationship with several different species of birds.

Scarlet Experiment: Birds and Humans in America
Hear Charity Nebbe's interview with children's author Michelle Edwards - Talk of Iowa
Emily Woodbury

Also on the show, author Michelle Edwards discusses her new picture book, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love. The book weaves together friendship, kindness, and knitting, while showing how a simple act of kindness can be powerful, and not just for the person on the receiving end.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa