Don’t tick off a mockingbird because chances are, it will remember the slight. Not only will it keep tabs when you pass by, it might just retaliate. That’s because mockingbirds can single out humans that have done them wrong, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A single person approached a nesting site at University of Florida for four days in a row. Each day the mockingbirds retreated further and further, while making louder distress calls and even attacking the interloper, who wore different clothes each day. Other people, however, strolled by completely undisturbed.
On the fifth day, a different person threatened the nest just as the first person had, but the birds only retreated as far back as they had on the first day with the original attacker.
The researchers don’t think that mockingbirds have developed a specific ability to recognize humans, but rather their fast learning and keen perception have allowed them to thrive in urban environments.