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Pigeons Can Recognize Individual Human Faces

Pigeons Can Recognize Individual Human Faces


Written by Mat McDermott

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.

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.

What I want to know more about in this is the distance at which pigeons can recognize individuals.

Why: In the process of filming a documentary about people who keep, fly and sometimes race pigeons I was told on a number of occasions by the pigeon fanciers that when the birds are up flying in groups, the reason they keep flying around is that the fancier is waving a long stick around with a black cloth tied on the end of it and that this is mistaken for a predator bird. If pigeons can recognize human faces, then they surely recognize the person holding that stick and likely know that that person provides food for them in their coops. That person is a friendly, useful person. Does it then make sense that they mistake the black cloth for a predator, so closely associated with the human? The birds are obviously reacting to the cloth and the waving about, but my intuition is that the conventional pigeon fancier wisdom is wrong.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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Photo: M. Orellana/flickr

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6:27AM PST on Dec 18, 2012

I'm sorry, I posted the Link in error. I meant to say, Thank you TreeHugger, for Sharing this!

6:24AM PST on Dec 18, 2012!freshpaper/c251e

5:55PM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

Pigeons are way smarter than people think, Mine can spot me while in flight, at a height of 40 -50 feet, from over 300 feet away and it doesn't matter what I am wearing. I did not buy this pigeon. She decided to make me her mate. Everyone always asked how did I train her? I tell I didn't train her, she is training me. Every bit just like a woman and very demanding. She has to get her way! I had her for five years, now and when I read up on pigeons and their life span, I found out that domesticated pigeon can live up to 25 years. I most likely go before she does. I don't think I will make it to be 80, nor, do I want too!

1:08PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Very interesting, thank you.

1:08PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Very interesting, thank you.

1:07PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Very interesting, thank you.

1:07PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Very interesting, thank you.

1:06PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Very interesting, thank you.

6:45AM PDT on Aug 7, 2012


4:48AM PDT on Aug 7, 2012


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