Daily Archives: December 2, 2013

Intelligence vs Smart

Sometimes it takes a bird brain to pull a post together.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been mulling over an incident that got me to thinking about the difference between being smart and being intelligent.

What sparked that idea happened as I was walking to the bus stop one morning. A group of five or six little neighborhood kids, ages from four and a half to ten were playing. When they saw me they started yelling “Hello, hello, hello.” One of the few English words they know. Naturally I was saying “Hello, hello, hello” right back. We do this all the time. But the youngest of the group, my next door neighbor’s daughter, separated herself from the group and came over to me and said, “¿Cómo se dice, ‘adios’ en Inglés?” (“How do you say ‘goodbye’ in English?”)

That impressed me. It was a leap of intellectual curiosity that the others didn’t have. She knows what “hello” means and how it relates to an event but she wanted to extend her knowledge beyond that. A person has to have some level of “smartness” to be able to pick up another language. It takes “intelligence” to delve into how it all works.

But that’s a single, isolated incident. What really brought the theme together happened this morning with a rufus-tailed hummingbird.

I took this video of a rufus-tailed hummingbird when I was house-sitting in Potrerillos Arriba…


I was sitting in my rocking chair on the front porch enjoying my morning cup of locally-grown coffee when the hummingbird stationed itself less than three feet in front of me clicking away in humingbirdese. It stayed like that for at least half a minute and flew off. A few minutes later it repeated its performance. It took me a while to figure out why it was doing this. Then I looked up at the hummingbird feeder that hangs nearby. It was empty.

Now, the bird knows that the little flowers on the feeder aren’t real. That’s smart. Knowing it’s empty is smart. Knowing that I’m the one who mixes up the juice for the feeder is intelligence! Hovering in front of me and making a racket so I’d notice that the feeder needed to be refilled is also intelligence. It’s thinking “outside the box.”

Just because something can’t talk doesn’t mean it’s stupid.


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