Pigeons Can Learn Higher Math

by Rebecca on December 27, 2011

in Animals in the News

How Smart Is This Bird? Let It Count the Ways


William van der Vliet

A pigeon performing a math test. When the bird pecks a shape, a box appears around it.


By now, the intelligence of birds is well known. Alex the African gray parrot had great verbal skills. Scrub jays, which hide caches of seeds and other food, have remarkable memories. And New Caledonian crows make and use tools in ways that would put the average home plumber to shame.      

Pigeons, it turns out, are no slouches either. It was known that they could count. But all sorts of animals, including bees, can count. Pigeons have now shown that they can learn abstract rules about numbers, an ability that until now had been demonstrated only in primates. In the 1990s scientists trained rhesus monkeys to look at groups of items on a screen and to rank them from the lowest number of items to the highest.        

Read more at the The New York Times 

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