Toronto: Birds living in urban environments are smarter than those from rural locations, according to a new study that found life in the city changes cognition, behaviour and physiology of birds to their advantage.

City birds have adapted to their urban environments enabling them to exploit new resources more favourably then their rural counterparts, according to researchers from McGill University in Canada.

In a first-ever study to find clear cognitive differences in birds from urbanised compared to rural areas, researchers reported key differences in problem-solving abilities such as opening drawers to access food, and temperament among city birds versus country.

They tested the two groups of birds using not only associative learning tasks, but innovative problem-solving tasks. Innovativeness is considered to be useful in the “real life" of animals in the wild, more so than associative learning.

“We found that not only were birds from urbanised areas better at innovative problem-solving tasks than bullfinches from rural environments, but that surprisingly urban birds also had a better immunity than rural birds," said Jean-Nicolas Audet from McGill University.

“Since urban birds were better at problem-solving, we expected that there would be a trade-off and that the immunity would be lower, just because we assumed that you cannot be good at everything (in fact, both traits are costly)," said Audet. “It seems that in this case, the urban birds have it all," he said.

The findings were published in the journal Behavioural Ecology.