Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pigeons Show Superior Self-recognition Abilities to Three Year Old Humans

Pigeons Show Superior Self-recognition Abilities To Three Year Old Humans
see article in Science Daily

Keio University scientists have shown that pigeons are able to discriminate video images of themselves even with a 5-7 second delay, thus having self-cognitive abilities higher than 3-year-old children who have difficulty recognizing their self-image with only a 2 second delay. (Credit: Image courtesy of Keio University)ScienceDaily (June 14, 2008) — Keio University scientists have shown that pigeons are able to discriminate video images of themselves even with a 5-7 second delay, thus having self-cognitive abilities higher than 3-year-old children who have difficulty recognizing their self-image with only a 2 second delay.

Prof. Shigeru Watanabe of the Graduate School of Human Relations of Keio University and Tsukuba University graduate student Kohji Toda trained pigeons to discriminate real-time self-image using mirrors as well as videotaped self-image, and proved that pigeons can recognize video images that reflect their movements as self-image.

Self-recognition is found in large primates such as chimpanzees, and recent findings show that dolphins and elephants also have such intelligence. Proving that pigeons also have this ability show that such high intelligence as self-recognition can be seen in various animals, and are not limited to primates and dolphins that have large brains.

Experimental method and results

The pigeon was trained to discriminate two types of video images in the following method. First, live video images of the present self (A) and recorded video images of the pigeon that moves differently from the present self (B) are shown. When the pigeon learns to discriminate these two images, the video image of (A) is shown with a temporal delay, so that the monitor shows the image of the pigeon a few seconds before. If the pigeon remembers its own movements, it can recognize it as self-image even with the delay.

The pigeon could discriminate (A) with a few seconds delay as something different from (B). This shows that the pigeon can differentiate the present self-image and the recorded self-image of the past, which means that the pigeon has self-cognitive abilities. Video image (A) matches with the movement of itself, whereas (B) does not. Being able to discriminate the two means that the pigeon understands the difference between movements of itself and movements of the taped image. In this experiment, movements of the pigeon itself are in question instead of the mark of Gallup’s mark test (see 2-(1) below for explanation). When there is a temporal delay in the image of the present self, the longer the delay, the more pigeon’s discrimination was disrupted, and this also shows that the pigeon discriminates the video images using its own movements. The important thing is whether it understands the difference between movements in the video image that match with itself and movements in the video image that don’t.

Method of testing self recognition on animals

(1) Gallup’s mirror test (self-recognition test)

The self-recognition test on animals using mirrors was developed by psychology Prof. Gordon Gallup Jr. at the State University of New York, Albany. His papers released in 1970 in the “Science” magazine explaining that chimpanzees have abilities for self-recognition attracted attention. This test is known as the first to test self-recognition on animals. He anesthetized chimpanzees and then marked their faces. When the chimpanzees were awakened, they were confronted with a mirror and they touched the corresponding marked region of their own faces. Most tests of self-recognition are a variation of the Gallup test, and are used to assess self-recognition in a wide variety of species. It is also called the mark test, or the rouge test.

(2) Assessment of self-recognition on pigeons

Self-recognition can be assessed with cross-modality matching. A typical example of cross-modality matching is waving your hand when you see yourself in a video image. With a mirror image or video image of oneself, when information of the propriocepter (how the arms and legs of oneself are moving) and visual information of oneself correlate, this can be considered self-recognition. The Gallup’s mark test is based on the precondition that the subject can touch itself. Unless the subject touches itself, it cannot be proved that it has abilities for self-recognition. However, the test conducted on pigeons is more advanced, as it is based on how the pigeons move, and by memorizing the shown images, pigeons proved that they have self-cognitive abilities.

Self-cognitive abilities tested in pigeons are higher than that of 3-year olds

Through various experiments, it is known that pigeons have great visual cognitive abilities. For example, a research at Harvard University proved that pigeons could discriminate people photographs from others. At Prof. Shigeru Watanabe’s laboratory, pigeons could discriminate paintings of a certain painter (such as Van Gogh) from another painter (such as Chagall).

Furthermore, pigeons could discriminate other pigeons individually, and also discriminate stimulated pigeons that were given stimulant drugs from none. In this experiment, pigeons could discriminate video images that reflect their movements even with a 5-7 second delay from video images that don’t reflect their movements. This ability is higher than an average 3-year-olds of humans. According to a research by Prof. Hiraki of the University of Tokyo, 3-year-olds have difficulty recognizing their self-image with only a 2 second delay.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More Pigeon Fowl Play in New York

Fowl play: Sicko paints pigeon purple in Queens


Updated Friday, August 15th 2008, 4:49 PM

A pigeon that was painted purple was discovered in a Queens park.
We heard it through the grapevine - Queens has a purple pigeon.

Theroyal-hued bird wasn't born that way, though. Someone with a sick sense of humor - or a problem with pigeons - painted him purple.

"Itwas terrible," said Joe Mora, an animal lover who rescued the birdThursday from a Long Island City playground, where onlookers weregawking at the oddly-colored columbine.

"It looks like this was done could have been blinded," Mora said.

Hetried coaxing the lethargic bird to eat while asking anyone andeveryone for advice on how to clean paint from its feathers and beak.

Friday,city Animal Care and Control officials transferred the pigeon to BobbyHorvath, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Nassau County who hasextensive experience caring for injured birds.

The young pigeon, about three or four months old, might not survive the prank - if it was one, Horvath said.

"I have never seen anything like it," said Horvath, who is also a New York City firefighter.

"He's flightless at this point. His feathers are completely rigid," he said.

"His beak and mouth and eyes are clear of paint," Horvath said. "That's a positive thing."

Horvath said the bird has a better chance if the paint hasn't seeped through into his skin.

Morasaid he hopes someone in the neighborhood will come forward withinformation about the bird. He said he has heard stories about a man onnearby Roosevelt Island who dyed his dog's fur purple.

"If this was intentionally done to the bird, it certainly is animal cruelty," said ASPCA Assistant Director Joseph Pentangelo.

Friday, August 8, 2008

More Pigeon-Nappings in New York City

New York Times article:

First, a confession. I am not a fan of pigeons. I have even eaten a pigeon, while on vacation in Egypt – more for the culinary adventure than revenge, but whatever the reason, I ate the bird and felt not a twinge of guilt.

Still, I was left rocked back on my heels this afternoon when I witnessed – for the first and hopefully only time – a pigeon-napping.

The curious incident happened in Columbus Park, a small oasis tucked behind the State Supreme Court complex on Centre Street, on the border of Chinatown.

The park itself is one of the more intriguing gathering spots in Manhattan. All day, elderly Chinese men play a Chinese version of chess as crowds gather to watch. There are other clusters of Chinese women playing card games. Little English is spoken. The lawyers and government functionaries who work nearby also swing through the small, unkempt grounds, but it is largely a Chinese crowd.

They sit not only on the benches and at the tables, but on rocks and the small slivers of earth surrounding the largely paved area.

In the western corner of the park, some men had hung cages with lovely songbirds in them, listening to their chirping as they sprawled out in the shade of the trees.

It was among this crowd that a burly white man in a blue shirt sat down.

He threw some crumbs on the ground in front of him and almost immediately, a flock of pigeons was at his feet.

Then, with a quick thrust of his right arm, he seized one of the birds. As the other pigeons scattered, he stuffed his captured prey into a large white box. We made brief eye contact. Then he bolted, thrusting his box with the rustling bird on his shoulder and disappearing into the crowded alley ways of Chinatown. I was mystified.

Was he capturing dinner? Taking the bird to his own flock to be raced or trained? Getting food for some voracious pet?

He was gone before I could ask, but a quick search on bird-napping revealed that it is topic that has come up in the past in the city.

The New Yorker reported last summer that residents in some neighborhoods were reporting a wave of pigeon robbers. A writer for the magazine was contacted by someone from “Bird Operations Busted, a self-styled pigeon-liberation outfit.” The man, who was not named in the story, said that generally, there were two kinds of birdnappers: “netters and hoopers,” referencing the tools used to capture pigeons.

There were enough incidents in Greenwich Village for The Villager, a community newspaper, to warn residents: “Someone is scooping up Village pigeons and no one knows why.”

But the man in Columbus Park was neither a netter nor a hooper, but rather a hand-scooper, and a deft one at that.

It calls to mind another man who captured pigeons in a public park to sustain himself during a particularly lean season: Ernest Hemingway.

In “A Moveable Feast,” Hemingway describes how he would wait for the gendarme at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris to wander off for a break or a glass of wine and then seize a pigeon, dispatching quickly with a swift twist of the neck before taking it home to prepare to eat.

In New York City, it seems, there is no need to fear the law when it comes to pigeon hunting.

My estimable colleague Al Baker, who covers the Police Department, made a quick inquiry about the incident and was told there was no indication a crime had been committed.

Asked if a man grabbing a pigeon, stuffing it in a box and running was a crime of some sort, a straight-faced police spokesman said, “No, not really.” “There’s no real crime,” the spokesman said, adding that more facts would be needed. “Maybe he’s trying to save the pigeon’s life. You cannot say it is a crime, because there is nothing to conclude it is a crime.”