Spatial Memory of Homing Pigeons, Columba livia, Tested in an Outdoor Aviary

Authors

  • Russel P. Balda,

    Corresponding author
    1. Fachbereich Biologie der Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität, Zoologie, Frankfurt a.M.
      Dept. Biol. Science, Box 5640, Northern Arizona Univ., Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA.
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  • Wolfgang Wiltschko

    1. Fachbereich Biologie der Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität, Zoologie, Frankfurt a.M.
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Dept. Biol. Science, Box 5640, Northern Arizona Univ., Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA.

Abstract

Five homing pigeons were trained to dig up hidden seeds buried in one of eight sand-filled cups in an octagonal aviary. All birds located the correct cup with an accuracy well above chance, irrespective of whether the retention time was between 15 min and 2 1/2 h, or whether it was between 1 d and 4 d. Even after 10 mo, the birds remembered the correct cup with great accuracy. This indicates well-developed spatial memory capacities of long duration. The method used in this study, based on training pigeons to dig for hidden seeds in combination with an arbitrary standard task, seems highly suitable to test pigeons for their spatial abilities.

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