May 31 - Pigeons are more intelligent than previously thought, according to researchers in the United States. Using touch screens to test the birds' problem-solving skills, University of Iowa scientists have demonstrated that pigeons can make considered choices while negotiating complex challenges presented by the widely-used ''string task'' intelligence test. Rob Muir reports.
Pigeons are ubiquitous in city centres all over the world. They may appear to be little more than robotic eating machines, but University of Iowa researchers say they're much more discerning than previously thought. Adapting a widely used test of intelligence called the "string task" to a touch screen, the researchers challenged several birds to differentiate between a virtual bowl of food and a blank square. To their suprise, not only did the birds consciously participate, they were able to identify the full bowl most of the time, and then drag it virtually closer down the string, ultimately to the point where real food would be offered as a reward. The researchers say several variations of the test demonstrate a more advanced problem-solving capability in pigeons than previously realised. They say the results present new possibilites for testing other animals on an interactive touch screen...and a new level of respect for pigeons.