Are pigeons smart? | How smart are pigeons?

Pigeons are mostly considered uninvited and nuisance guests in all metropolitan cities and suburbs. According to researchers, pigeons are the most intelligent, physically adept, and smartest species in the animal kingdom.

Intro Video - Backtobirds x
Intro Video - Backtobirds

Pigeons are featured in numerous experiments and tasks, including animal cognition. They show unique and unusual abilities. They can understand abstract concepts like time, distance, and space and process data similar to humans and other primates.

Pigeon brains are smaller than the tip of an index finger, but they can solve mathematical problems, recognize human faces, and distinguish between nonsensical gibberish and English words. The standard pigeon has a considerable capacity to discriminate and group different objects and images.

Are pigeons smart?

Yes, pigeons are pretty smart and intellectual birds. The basal ganglia and cortical-striatal synapses in the pigeon brain work and operate the same way as the human brain’s Information Passing capacity (IPC). Pigeons are called brainy birds, they can do multitasking just like humans. Pigeons are capable of doing cognitive skills associated with primates’ more complex brains.

With selective food reinforcement and other experiments, pigeons can identify cancer and categorize between malignant and benign growths.

Pigeons have a remarkable ability to distinguish complex visual images and help researchers and medical observers explore the quality of the image and compression-like color, brightness, and contrast on diagnostic performance.

Pigeons have a special visual memory and can easily distinguish emotional expressions and faces of humans, alphabetical letters, and paintings.

Historic Events of smart pigeons: 

History recites that meaningful lives were saved during world war || because of the heroic flight of a pigeon named Winkie. Winkie flew over 120 miles back home in a recording time, resulting in the immediate dispatch of a search and rescue mission that prominently saved many lives.  

On 23 February 1942, Winkie – a pigeon accompanied the British aircrew Bristol Beaufort. The team crashed to the enemy’s firing while they were on their way to a Norway mission. They did not have time enough to radio their accurate position to the reporting station, as they had to ditch the aircraft immediately to survive. They had only one option left – to set free the blue chequered hen winkie to the base home. 

Winkie was set free, after which she flew over 120 miles back home to its master. She appeared to be covered with oil spoilage. Master George Ross immediately reported to the airbase at RAF Leuchars located in Fife. 

With factors like,

  • The Time Difference in the ditching of the plane and Winkie’s arrival, 
  • The Wind direction it appeared to have flown, 
  • The Hindrance she might have faced due to the oil spoilage to her feathers, 

Team RAF was able to approximate the crew’s position and assigned a rescue vessel within 15 minutes. Winkie saved many lives, contributing to the happening world war 2. 

She was honored with the Dickin Medal in 1943.

How smart are Pigeons?

Pigeons are life-saving birds, and they have better eyesight than humans. They can see and recognize colors and other human-made objects in the same way as humans. Pigeons can learn response series and complex actions and can respond to all sequences.

Pigeons can see the ultraviolet spectrum where humans cannot see in normal eyes. In ancient times, pigeons were used to rescue thousands of peoples lost at sea and save numerous people during war times.

Related Read: Can Pigeons See at Night?

Scientists have conducted countless studies about pigeons’ cognitive skills and end with the following fascinating insights: pigeons are smart and brainy birds.

  • Words recognition 

Pigeons have the ability of orthographic knowledge ( visually recognize words). They can be trained to distinguish words from meaningless letter combinations. Pigeons can identify all 26 letters and will even be able to conceptualize them. This ability proves how smart pigeons’ brains are and that not only humans have orthographic skills.

  • Can discriminate different artist paintings

Pigeons can distinguish between different artist paintings based on features like pattern and color. They can remember numerous individual images for a long time (several years).

  • Can detect cancer

Pigeons can detect cancer and human breast tumors in radiology images. Through food rewards, people train pigeons to discriminate images from benign tissues and malignant tissues.

  • Mirror test

Pigeons pass mirror tests, which is one of the most common tests for animal intelligence. Researchers place marked birds with dye in front of the mirror and check whether it reacts according to its body’s paint. If it tries to reach the marked areas on its body, it is said to pass the test. Pigeons are proven to pass the Mirror test, thereby demonstrating their self-awareness.  

  • Numerical solving ability

Pigeons can count numbers equal to primates. Pigeons can count numbers from one to nine, which is impossible for most of the spices.

  • Memory power

Pigeons have tremendous memory power. Their memory is significantly higher than the elephants.  They can memorize random 725 black and white visual patterns. With their exceptional logical comprehension, pigeons can solve many complicated tasks.

How are pigeons smarter than other birds?

Pigeons have amazing numerical solving, memory, and visual abilities compared to other birds and on par with other primates. They are gifted with a unique ability, “homing instinct” which helps them find their way from hundreds of miles apart, even blindfolded.

Usually, birds’ homing behavior occurs over a fixed route all over the year. Pigeons can fly back to their nest from long distances with perseverance, and humans use this behavior for various purposes. 

Pigeons’ smartness is never-ending, and they can be kept studying forever. With proper training and nourishment, they can survive even smarter.

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