Kiwis Prove Birds Can Count

A year of training is all it took for pigeons at the University of Otago in Dunedin, NZ to count just as well as primates, the animal kingdom's equivalent of Will Hunting.

During experiments run by Otaga fellow Dr Damian Scarf, the pigeons were able to perform in the same league as monkeys when ordering groups of objects from lowest to highest. Pigeons of course don't have hands, so they just pecked out the order instead.

Their abilities remained high even with the introduction of objects with differing sizes, shapes and colours. They can't manage counts greater than nine at the moment and it's not clear whether they can do better than this.

A counting pigeon is impressive, sure, but it doesn't have anything on Alex the grey parrot. Not only could he talk, researchers believe his level of intelligence rivalled that of a five-year old. So he probably asked for a lot of Pokemon games, then. Sadly, Alex passed away in 2007.

[Science, via NYT]

Image: William van der Vliet

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