A new study has found that pigeons are showing greater orthographic skills, distinguishing real words from non-words on a screen. Nathan Frandino reports.
A new study has pigeons flying up in the pecking order. Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand and the Ruhr University in Germany have found that these birds can distinguish between real words and non-words. They trained the pigeons to peck their preference: a correctly spelled four-letter word or a symbol when the letters did not spell anything. Over the course of the study, the birds built a vocabulary of 26 to 58 words. The pigeons also pecked the symbol for more than 8,000 non-words. The birds' performances rivaled those of baboons who completed similar complex tasks. With these promising results, researchers are rethinking the put-down "bird brain", at least for these proficient pigeons.