Birds with small brains are less able to adapt to changes in the environment and may be the reason for their sharp decline over the past 50 years, suggests research from the University of Liverpool.

Consequently the traditional farmland birds such as the corn bunting, tree sparrow and grey partridge have been less able to adapt.

Birds such as the great tit, blue tit and magpie, all of which have larger brains relative to their size, have been able to adapt more quickly despite not being considered farmland specialists, reports the Daily Telegraph on Thursday (22 Sep).

“Large brains may help birds solve problems and adapt as their environments change.  Birds with small brains seem to be declining because they are stuck in their ways,” Suzanne Shultz, lead author of the report told the paper.

However, this revelation does not excuse agriculture for setting a pace of change which some wild mammals could not keep pace with say environmentalists.

“Reversing the declines of farmland birds is one of our greatest conservation challenges.  If farmers provide the habitat characteristics for less adaptable birds, we could be well on the way,” said Richard Gregory of the RSPB.