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Bird Roundup

August 28, 2009

Pigeons can be taught to tell good art from bad.


Avian art critics. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Pigeons can be trained to tell good art from bad, according to researchers at Keio University in Japan. The scientists gathered paintings from school children and had art teachers rank them. They then trained a group of pigeons by showing them the paintings on a computer monitor and rewarding them with food when they tapped their beaks on the good paintings. In the next phase, the pigeons were shown a whole new set of paintings they had never seen before. They consistently tapped on the best of these new paintings and ignored the bad ones– demonstrating that they learned the rules of good art composition.

In other bird news, scientists working in Laos have discovered a bald songbird they call the Barefaced Bulbul. The distinctive bird has a pink, featherless face and blue tint around its eyes. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.