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Pigeons Watch Us

July 20, 2011

Pigeons remember the people who feed them.



Pigeons remember faces…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you’re one of those people who feed pigeons in the park, you may be surprised to learn that the pigeons are also watching you. This according to animal behaviorist Davila Bovet of the University of Nanterre in France. Her research suggests that the scrappy birds can tell humans apart. She and her colleagues had two people in different colored lab coats feed pigeons in a Paris park. Both fed the pigeons the same amount of food, but one let the birds eat in peace while the other chased them off. Within a few days the pigeons learned to avoid the hostile person, and continued to do so even after the feeders traded lab coats.

DAVILA BOVET (University of Nanterre):

So they were really discriminating the people and not only their clothes.


Bovet speculates that this ability may be due to the pigeons’ long association with us, since being able to distinguish a dangerous human from a friendly one could help them survive. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.