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Bird Brains: Avian Biologist Visits Campus

A few months ago, Louis Lefebvre and two other biological researchers published an article on kleptoparasitism, the act of snatching food that someone (or something) else has already gathered. Along with his colleagues, Lefebvre, who specializes in birds, constructs a scientific study that examines the ornithological equivalent of this question: Why did your buddy suddenly start stealing your Big Mac and fries rather than just getting his own? Is it because he’s bigger than you? Was it the way he was raised? Is there simply no safe place for you to stash that fast-food feast until the bully has gone away? Or maybe because his brain’s telling him there’s an advantage to grabbing your goods?

Lefebvre, a biology professor at Toronto’s McGill University, often wrestles with the latest neurobiological theories and advancements to enhance our understanding of the animal mind – particularly the bird brain. This afternoon at 4 p.m. at the University of Illinois’ Beckman Institute he’ll be delivering a scientific lecture titled, “Innovativeness and Brain Evolution.”

Using his studies in birds as a platform, Lefebvre will explore the relationship between new behaviors among a species and cognitive developments within that species. (In other words, is your buddy stealing your Big Mac because he’s a brute or because he’s actually got a leg up on you in the brain department?)

During the past two-and-a-half decades, Lefebvre has authored or co-authored more than 55 scientific articles. He’s also the inventor of the avian IQ test and the author of several novels and books of poetry.

The lecture, which is sponsored by the Neurobiology Program at the University of Illinois, will be held in room 1005 at the Beckman Institute, 405 N. Mathews Ave., Urbana. The event is free.

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