presented by Denny Olson

Denny Olson at the Owen Sowerwine Natural Area on Jan. 17, 2022. (JP Edge photo)

Birds have often been described in disparaging terms as “dodos” — incapable of anything but instinctive behaviors, and having tiny brains with limited learning capacity. After all they’re just reptiles with feathers, right? Bird brains are smaller, to be sure, but mostly because of the weight limit demands of flight. Even though bird brain parts are arranged differently than ours, and our ways of gauging intelligence are much different than theirs, they operate at many times the speed of humans, have complex language-learning capabilities, show memories the dwarf our abilities, do complex trigonometry with sound and light, “see” magnetic lines of force during migrations, make an array of specialized tools, and even have those “human” qualities of altruism and empathy. Join Denny for a humorous examination of the avian brain and dozens of mind-boggling and fun examples of bird intelligence. Fair warning: if you are a human, it could be a humbling experience …

Denny Olson’s formal training as a biologist and geologist, as well as teaching nature for over 45 years in the north woods and mountain west, has given him expertise in many disciplines. He has done research on Common Loons, beavers and snowshoe hares , and received an M.S. Degree, (magna cum laude) from the University of Minnesota. From those scientific beginnings he forged an unlikely union between science, humor, and drama, and established a reputation as an innovative performer and educator.

Denny has trained thousands of naturalists, teachers and students in acting techniques, lectured on Native American storytelling as a teaching tool, and conducted workshops nation-wide. He has performed his humorous alter-egos (inc. Critterman, Wolfman, The Grizz, Dr. Death, Prof. Avian Guano, Dr. Loonacy, The Lost Voyageur, The Mad Herbalist) over 3000 times, in 49 states, for over 2 million people, including 80+ conference keynotes, 44 national park presentations, and 26 university performances.

He’s published 5 books, did a five-year “newscaster” run on the Montana NBC network on “Critterman’s News from the Woods” and is now nestled into semi-retirement and working as Flathead Audubon’s Conservation Educator.

Once again, we’re going to be doing a hybrid meeting, both in person and online using Zoom. For those coming to the meeting, we’ll meet in Room 26 (different than in past years) at 7 PM which is on the east side of the building along Glenwood Rd in Kalispell. Look for our banner hanging outside. Please practice social distancing for seating in the large meeting room and we strongly encourage mask wearing.

For those deciding to attend virtually, we’ll be not only broadcasting the presentation, but also involving you as well, so that you can report bird sightings and ask questions at the end of the presentation.

The virtual attendance will be via the online Zoom platform on March 14th, 2021, at 7pm Mountain Time (you can hop on at 6:30pm to chat with fellow FAS members). Check your January Pileated Post for the link or email us at requesting the link with instructions to connect.

The program is free and open to the public.

Videos of earlier FAS meeting presentations are available at