Chick Pride Worldwide

Cold Winters Theory applies to birds:

Last week during skiing holidays I saw a popular scientific program on animal intelligence in the evening, and they presented something like the Lynn-Miller-Rushton cold winter theory! Birds (chickadees) living in Alaska have bigger brains and are more intelligent than birds living in Kansas! This is an independent very valuable support for the cold winter theory on intelligence.

Links to the relevant papers in Emil Kirkegaard’s post.

In general, therefore, it seems best to focus on animals that tackle the cold winter problem head-on instead of avoiding it somehow (migrate, hibernate, or single-year lifespans). Among birds, the smartest birds are of the Corvidae family — in particular crows, ravens and magpies — and they generally don’t migrate in the winter. Of the non-Corvidae, I think the smartest birds are some of the parrot species. These also often don’t migrate.

As Lazy Glossophiliac points out, yet another bullseye for folk stereotypes: “Fascinating that Corvidae would be the smartest birds because stereotypically it’s ravens. Well, and owls.

Someone should do a meta-study of IQ or r/K-selection differences across the animal kingdom for suitable species – span many latitudes; don’t sidestep the cold winters problem; haven’t been artificially selected by humans – to ascertain whether CWT really is universal.

Step one: “Does someone know a good way to get habitat location information for a large number of species automatically? Preferably numeric information.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds that contains the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcrackers.

  2. Owls are dumb as rocks according to a guy I saw interviewed about a Harry Potter film.

    African Grey parrotts are supposedly very intelligent. They don’t fit the cold winters theory. And crows are also found in the tropics.

  3. So climate change has long term dysgenic effects? Great.

  4. Parrots live in the south. The theory fails.

  5. I think that hibernation or migration is as smart a way of “tackling the cold winter problem head-on” as any. Or perhaps smarter. Why wouldn’t you avoid being cold and hungry? Bears hibernate and they are pretty smart.

  6. Technically, I think it would only apply when comparing the same species across different latitudes, or climatic conditions.

    It’s not a bad idea really, there are a lot of species, especially birds, that inhabit a wide range of latitudes. Some even were introduced within a historical timeframe, so the number of generations could be calculated pretty well. The only big caveat, I’d say is body size definitely differs as well, so you probably couldn’t control for body size very well.

    I wouldn’t at all be surprised, if birds in the North were smarter. There’s bound to be less leaf cover from birds of prey, food is bound to be harder to come by (excepting birdfeeders.) Personally, I’m amazed whenever I see a sparrow in wintertime.

  7. I thought Kea parrots were the smartest birds.
    I saw a documentary that, believe me, showed intelligence you would NOT imagine possible in a bird.
    Check a documentary or two on them. Really amazing the way they solve a combination of different problems so fast.

  8. I always wondered why Inuit score higher that Ashkenazim on any sort of IQ test.

  9. Visuospatial loading, they have to navigate in the snow?

  10. I speculated that it was verbal; 101 words for snow, etc.