Today I learned,


Pigeons can recognize the faces that mistreat them.

by Eureka Alert:

Untrained feral pigeons have special skills enabling them to recognize individuals, and are not fooled by people changing clothes. Photo: Ahmed Belguermi

New research has shown that feral, untrained pigeons can recognise individual people and are not fooled by a change of clothes.

Researchers, who will be presenting their work at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow on Sunday the 3rd of July, have shown that urban pigeons that have never been caught or handled can recognise individuals, probably by using facial characteristics.

In a park in Paris city centre, pigeons were fed by two researchers, of similar build and skin colour, wearing different coloured lab coats. One individual simply ignored the pigeons, allowing them to feed while the other was hostile, and chased them away. This was followed by a second session when neither chased away the pigeons.

The experiment, which was repeated several times, showed that pigeons were able to recognise the individuals and continued to avoid the researcher who had chased them away even when they no longer did so. Swapping lab coats during the experiments did not confuse the pigeons and they continued shun the researcher who had been initially hostile.

The fact that the pigeons appeared to know that clothing colour was not a good way of telling humans apart suggests that the birds have developed abilities to discriminate between humans in particular. This specialised ability may have come about over the long period of association with humans, from early domestication to many years of living in cities.

Eureka Alert

First, crows now pigeons. Maybe Alfred Hitchcock was right.