Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pigeons Recognize Different Human Faces

Man feeding pigeons. Photo courtesy: Mat McDermott/CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

New research shows that pigeons have more advanced cognitive processes than we commonly give them credit for, that they can recognize familiar human faces from unfamiliar. I don't know why this should come as a shock to anyone. It has long been established that crows and many other birds recognize human faces. Ask any parrot owner if their birds recognize them apart from any other person who may be in the room at the time. The answer (and mine is included) is "yes". My parrotlets recognize me; and, fly to me exclusively when called.

The study, published in Avian Biology Research, found that "the experimental group birds were able to recognize and classify the familiar people using only their faces...the results show that pigeons can discriminate between the familiar and unfamiliar people and can do this solely using facial characteristics."

Lead research Dr Anna Wilkinson:
Such advanced cognitive processes have rarely been observed in pigeons and suggest that they not only recognize individual humans but also know who they know, something which could be very important for survival. To know individuals and act appropriately to them is enormously advantageous. (Science Daily)
The researchers also say that the discovery of this ability in pigeons is further noteworthy because it shows that the ability to recognize individual facial characteristics is not restricted to birds normally considered to be highly cognitive.

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