Short Communication

Animal Cognition

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 909-914

Pigeons discriminate between human feeders

  • Ahmed BelguermiAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ethologie et Cognition Comparées, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La DéfenseLaboratoire d’Ethologie et Cognition Comparées, EA 3456, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Nanterre Email author 
  • , Dalila BovetAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ethologie et Cognition Comparées, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
  • , Anouck PascalAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ethologie et Cognition Comparées, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
  • , Anne-Caroline Prévot-JulliardAffiliated withLaboratoire Conservation des Espèces, Restauration et Suivi des Populations (CERSP), UMR 7204 CNRS Museum National d’Histoire NaturelleInstitut des Sciences de la Communication du CNRS (ISCC)
  • , Michel Saint JalmeAffiliated withLaboratoire Conservation des Espèces, Restauration et Suivi des Populations (CERSP), UMR 7204 CNRS Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle
  • , Lauriane Rat-FischerAffiliated withLaboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université René Descartes, CNRS, UMR 8158
  • , Gérard LeboucherAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ethologie et Cognition Comparées, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

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Abstract

Considered as plague in many cities, pigeons in urban areas live close to human activities and exploit this proximity to find food which is often directly delivered by people. In this study, we explored the capacity of feral pigeons to take advantage of this human-based food resource and discriminate between friendly and hostile people. Our study was conducted in an urban park. Pigeons were fed by two experimenters of approximately the same age and skin colour but wearing coats of different colours. During the training sessions, the two human feeders displayed different attitudes: one of the feeders was neutral and the second was hostile and chased away the pigeons. During the two test phases subsequent to the training phase, both feeders became neutral. Two experiments were conducted, one with one male and one female feeder and the second with two female feeders. In both experiments, the pigeons learned to quickly (six to nine sessions) discriminate between the feeders and maintained this discrimination during the test phases. The pigeons avoided the hostile feeder even when the two feeders exchanged their coats, suggesting that they used stable individual characteristics to differentiate between the experimenter feeders. Thus, pigeons are able to learn quickly from their interactions with human feeders and use this knowledge to maximize the profitability of the urban environment. This study provides the first experimental evidence in feral pigeons for this level of human discrimination.

Keywords

Feral pigeons Foraging behaviour Inter-specific recognition