The research shows …

Ed Smith
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This is not a column about sex. OK, so I’ve lost half of you already. Those who remain are being rewarded by this interesting little tidbit: a study of sexual behavior in the United States has just been released and claims to be the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the last two decades.

As I said, I’m not on about that this week, but there was one little finding among all the others that caught my eye. More than 5,000 people of all ages took part in the study, so the researchers state that what it has revealed should now be considered “normal” for Americans.

What captured my interest? Just a simple little fact — according to this study — that the people involved in the study identified 41 ways to have sex. Count them! Forty-one! Good grief, Charlie Brown!

If they had asked me, I would have thought for a few moments and then said three. If they had asked me to identify them, I would have thought for an hour or so and then said missionary, reverse missionary and side-by-side. I’m thinking, OH, I’m thinking. OK, four counting that one. Omigosh, forgot that one, too. Five — that’s it.

I’m wondering if any one person in that study identified more than five positions. Certainly no one person — gee whiz, how could I have forgotten those two? OK, seven — ever did all 41! I searched through the Kama Sutra and found only 23. Perhaps the next 18 are in your imagination.

I should live so long!

Anyway, that wasn’t the research I intended to talk about , although you have to admit it is rather fascinating. Forty-one. Phew. I’ll give a copy of my next book — “A Spoonful of Sugar,” due out this week — make that two copies, to anyone who can identify 40.

The original research on which I intended to comment was equally fascinating when you stopped to think about it. You might have to stop and think for some time, but eventually the fascinating part will occur to you, as it did to me.

To save you the time, I’ll go through the process with you and for you.

A researcher at a university in Boston has spent several years studying the brains of birds. There, you say, is a man with too much time on his hands. Hold on, now. He hasn’t just been studying their brains — what there are of them. He’s been weighing them.

You’re right. He hasn’t needed a forklift to do that. But he’s been doing it nevertheless and he’s come to a really fascinating (there’s that word again) conclusion: the brains of migratory birds weigh less than those of their non-migratory cousins.

For those of you whose brains may not weigh all that much to begin with, a migratory bird is one that every year flies thousands of kilometres to get away from the cold of the North and bask in the marvelous warmth of the South. Ducks, geese and robins are good examples.

So, happily, is the turr. If turrs didn’t fly down from the Arctic by their tens of thousands in the fall seeking warmer climes, we wouldn’t have the God-given gift of three or four well-basted brown carcasses on a platter awaiting the grateful diners.

Those of you who sit at home and don’t own 12-gauge shotguns (registered, of course!) will never have experienced the taste of a wild duck shot in the shallow end of a muddy pond on a beautiful, cool fall’s day.

Non-migratory birds are those that stay around and stick it out, such as jays and crows.

Some of the more adventurous among you may already have noticed something significant. I say “adventurous” because those of you who sit at home and don’t own 12-gauge shotguns (registered, of course!) will never have experienced the taste of a wild duck shot in the shallow end of a muddy pond on a beautiful, cool fall’s day.

It tastes even better if you had to swim to retrieve it because you don’t have a dog and you couldn’t reach it with a stick. (Yes, I have.)

I think you’ve already figured it out. Your non-migratory little raptor, i.e. the crow and the jay, don’t really have the same taste as your duck and your goose, no matter how much fat back pork you bake with them, or how much savory you put in the dressing.

Consequently, there is this one inescapable conclusion: birds with small brains are one heck of a lot tastier than birds with larger brains. The fact that the smaller-brained variety are available for only a few days in the fall, when you have to risk life and limb to get them, is just one more example of how Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have gotten the dirty end of the stick forever.

There is one other not insignificant little connection to be made at this time of year. That’s with the human counterparts of the small-brained, migratory birds of autumn.

There is a subspecies of the human animal that may also be included in the migratory status of certain birds. Indeed, we give them an appropriate name.

The question, and perhaps more research needs to be done here, is whether or not these migratory animals would also have smaller brains than their stay-at-home relatives.

On the surface of it, one would think that remaining behind to face the wild storms of winter is not the decision of a larger brain. In the middle of February, those who have escaped this vale of frozen tears seem to be veritable Einsteins to the shivering others who are left behind.

Obviously, such is not the case.

The researchers, by the way, have concluded that heavier brains would only slow down the migratory bird and make it more difficult for it to reach its destination. In short, it has to travel light.

Those of us watching their human counterparts lighting out for Florida and the sunny South can only marvel at how much more intelligent we are because we stay at home.

Fly, little snowbirds, fly.


Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is

Geographic location: United States, Boston, Arctic Florida Springdale

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