The Web of Life (126-13-1) Pigeons


Pigeons are capable of high-order relational learning. ~ American psychologist Ed Wasserman

Chimps and people have nothing over pigeons, which readily absorb abstract numerical rules.

Despite completely different brain organization and hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary divergence, pigeons and monkeys solve ordinal number problems in a similar way. ~ American cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Brannon

Pigeon geographical sense is unerring. Thanks to detailed mental maps, pigeons can fly to a destination via the most efficacious route, taking into account the best food stops and watering holes. This is characteristic of birds, which typically have infallible navigational skills.

The homing ability of birds can be positively eerie. Birds can orient themselves based on visual landmarks, the Sun, and stars, and even by sense of smell, just like we can. Birds are also able to find their way using methods unimaginable to humans, such as magnetic fields, polarized light, echolocation, and infrasound. You can blindfold a bird, cover its nostrils, cover its ears, transport it far from home in a magnetized cage, and, more often than not, it will still manage to find its way home. The question becomes not how birds find their way, but how they ever manage to become lost (a rare occurrence). ~ American ornithologist Noah Strycker

Pigeons have impressive visual memory: able to remember hundreds of images for several years. Pigeons can generalize and discriminate among different painting styles. A trained pigeon can tell a Monet from a Picasso, and impressionism from cubism.

Once a pigeon understands the concept of a mirror, which has no analogue in Nature, it uses the mirror to examine parts of its body that it cannot ordinarily see. People are no different.

Pigeons can tell people who are kind to them from those that are not. No training needed for that.

Pigeons comprehend transitive inference, which is associative inferential reasoning. Knowing that A > B, B > C, C > D, and D > E, a pigeon cogently concludes that B > E. The grasp of transitive inference is essential to understanding the hierarchical social networks which characterize pigeon societies.

Pigeons plan. To do so, they assess their level of knowledge and seek more information if relevant facts are not known.