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Have we met before? Pigeons recognise familiar human faces

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Despite growing evidence for the recognition of conspecifics, studies on heterospecific recognition are still scarce. There is some evidence that birds living in urban habitats are able to distinguish between specific humans, depending on their previous experience with them. Nonetheless, the features by which the birds actually discriminated among humans remain unclear. This study investigated whether pigeons are capable of performing such a sophisticated categorisation and the features relevant to making this discrimination. The results revealed that pigeons are able to discriminate reliably between familiar and unfamiliar humans and provide evidence that facial features are important for this recognition. Furthermore, our results suggest that the ability to discriminate between individual heterospecifics is not restricted to bird species that are considered highly cognitive.
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Keywords: COLUMBA LIVIA; CONCEPT OF FAMILIARITY; HETEROSPECIFIC RECOGNITION; HUMAN FACE RECOGNITION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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  • Avian Biology Research provides a forum for the publication of research in every field of ornithology. It covers all aspects of pure and applied ornithology for wild or captive species as well as research that does not readily fit within the publication objectives of other ornithological journals. By considering a wide range of research fields for publication, Avian Biology Research provides a forum for people working in every field of ornithology. The journal also includes sections on avian news, conference diary and book reviews.

    Editor-in-Chief: Charles Deeming Editors: Tom Pike; Dale Sandercock; Claudia Wascher; Jenny Dunn
    Production Editor: Claire Pike

    Cover image:Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) chicks in their nest. Photo by Dr Masoud Moosavi.

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