The Country Bird and the City Bird

Question for class discussion in microeconomics:

"Country birds" are generally very shy around people, and won't come close to them. "City birds," on the other hand, come quite close to people in the hopes of getting a handout or scooping up some dropped food.

We can assume all bird populations were once more like country birds. How did the city-type birds arise? What economic concept can you use to help explain this happening?


  1. A few entrepreneurial city birds made billions in bread crumbs and opened up a whole new market.

  2. I think that if you investigate this issue more deeply, that you'll find the same dynamic as that found in both dogs (many centuries ago) and raccoons (in more modern times). Familiarity is the key, and it generally gets passed on through generations. While this is generally a taught trait, it certainly has implications for genetics when one considers which form become most dominant within a species.

    1. Right on, Joseph, but which major microeconomic theme makes this clearer?

  3. Is it a subsidy? For example, a bunch of libertarian farmers normally would be very hostile to evil government workers, but if the government decides to give them a subsidy, they might become more friendly.

  4. Uncertainty: The country birds do not have many opportunities to observe people, so they do not have much information to differentiate them from predators. City birds observe many more people, enough to observe that they act significantly different from predators; they sometimes even provide food. So risk averse country birds will avoid humans while risk averse city birds will pester them.