The insult of ‘bird-brain’ is generally applied to scatty people who cannot hold much in their heads. But it seems this may be doing an injustice to our feathered friends. Scientists have discovered that the common pigeon actually has an astonishingly good long-term memory.
In tests they found a single bird can memorise 1,200 pictures. …
[In the] new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), … birds were given a food reward if they correctly pecked the key that matched the image. Baboons were given a similar test but had to push a button instead. Both species were tested over the course of several years to see just how much they could remember.
To the amazement of the scientists from the Mediterranean Institute of Cognitive Neurosciences in Marseille, France, the pigeons were able to memorise up to 1,200 pictures and the correct responses. Baboons performed much better with some managing to remember 5,000 successfully.
Despite the difference in the capacity of their memories, the researchers noted some key similarities in their reaction times and rate of forgetfulness. ‘Birds and monkeys differ considerably in physiology and evolutionary history,’ he said. ‘Despite millions of years of divergent evolution they demonstrate highly similar memory profiles.’
The study is not the first to shed light on some of the remarkable abilities of pigeons. Italian researchers have found they owe their sense of direction to ‘odour maps’ they make of areas they pass over. Last year scientists also attempted to rate the intelligence of a whole range of birds. They found crows, rooks, jays and ravens topped the lead for bird IQ – however the New World quail was crowned the dunce of the avian world. – dailymail