Animal Cognition

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 633–641 | Cite as

Comparing black-capped (Poecile atricapillus) and mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli): use of geometric and featural information in a spatial orientation task

  • Emily R. Batty
  • Laurie L. Bloomfield
  • Marcia L. Spetch
  • Christopher B. Sturdy
Original Paper


Since Cheng (Cognition 23:149–178, 1986) first proposed the “geometric module” in rats, a great deal of research has focused on how other species use geometric information and how geometric encoding may differ across species. Here, hand-reared and wild-caught black-capped chickadees and wild-caught mountain chickadees searched for food hidden in one corner in a rectangular environment. Previous research has shown that mountain chickadees do not spontaneously encode geometric information when a salient feature is present near the goal location. Using a slightly different training and testing procedure, we found that both hand-reared and wild-caught black-capped chickadees encoded geometric information, even in the presence of a salient landmark. Some, but not all, mountain chickadees also encoded geometric information. Overall, our results suggest that use of geometric information may be a less preferred strategy for mountain chickadees than for either wild-caught or hand-reared black-capped chickadees. To our knowledge, this is the first direct interspecies comparison of use of geometric information in a spatial orientation task.


Mountain chickadees Black-capped chickadees Geometry Spatial learning Rearing environment 



This research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant (NSERC), Alberta Ingenuity Fund (AIF) New Faculty Grant, Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) New Opportunities Grant along with start-up funding and CFI partner funding from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to CBS, a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant awarded to MLS, a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada postgraduate scholarship awarded to ERB and an Alberta Ingenuity Studentship to LLB. All animal studies were conducted in accordance with the Canadian Council on Animal Care Guidelines and Policies with approval from the Biosciences Animal Policy and Welfare Committee for the University of Alberta. The authors wish to thank Rabail Chaudhry, Wu Cheuk Sun, Nathan Dahl, Kelly Gordon, Lindsay Hoban and Kirsten Williams for their help running subjects and scoring data, as well as Isaac Lank for help with the apparatus and technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily R. Batty
    • 1
  • Laurie L. Bloomfield
    • 2
  • Marcia L. Spetch
    • 1
  • Christopher B. Sturdy
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyAlgoma UniversitySault Ste. MarieCanada
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, Centre for NeuroscienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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