The birds of Betelgeuse were more advanced than we were when the Peloran made Contact in fact, and had been a space faring race when Caesar crossed the Rubicon.  But they had no hyperdrive.  That is because of the Betelgeuse star system.  It is a Beacon Star, twisting hyperspace far more than normal stars.  Our first hyperdrives would have utterly failed at Betelgeuse and so did theirs.  Knowing it was impossible their science went in other directions.