How Smart Are Pigeons?

If you are curious about how smart are pigeons then before that let me tell you, I and we all have heard people using the word “bird brained” many times and this is done when someone has to be called foolish or low minded, because people think birds don’t have brains.

The reality is that birds also have brains, but they think very differently from mammals. You should also consider that birds’ brains are much larger than their size. If we observe very carefully, birds’ brains are similar to primates which includes apes, monkeys and even humans.

The sharp brain of birds is also fully capable of using intelligence as our brain does. Their intelligence can be seen from their behavior, for which you can see the most common bird pigeon.

Due to their sharp mind many people like to raise pigeons. There are many people who are very good fans of them, especially of the pigeon race. This race is the perfect example of the pigeon’s clever brainpower.

How Smart Are Pigeons

How Smart Are Pigeons?

Researchers have done numerous studies on perceptual abilities of pigeons, whose results were very surprising and quite different. As earlier it was believed that they are very thick-headed but new research has shown that they are the master of numbers.

Pigeons can understand and count the numbers as well as they can read. Here are some points that help you to understand how smart and intelligent pigeons are. 

  • Pigeons can count. In 2011, a research was done in New Zealand to investigate whether pigeons can master the numbers. It was found in different types of species that they are able to distinguish between numbers. The birds have learnt the work of arranging these numbers in ascending order, which is very difficult or impossible for many species. It is a very simple task to discriminate between 4 or 7 food pallets but the researchers also propose the set of visual characters from 1 to 9 in front of these birds. 
  • Pigeons can read or they can recognize the words. It is very surprising for you that pigeons are able to read, but if we ask you that it is true –  what would you think ? In 2016, a team of researchers from Germany And New Zealand concluded that these birds can be instructed to distinguish words formed by random combinations of letters. These pigeons learned about 58 words and they can tell or seperate 7,832 random four digit combinations from these letters. So it was clear that pigeons have very sharp  brains that they have an ability to express the word present in their mind.
  • Pigeons have the ability to distinguish paintings and photographs. In a very uncommon way japanese scientists studied the visual capabilities of these birds in which: they displayed some bird portrayals drawn by Picassao and Monet. The study was conducted in 1995. The birds were trained to differentiate between the paintings of each by Monet and picasso. What do you think they would have been able to succeed in? These birds don’t have any difficulty doing this. This task can be very easy but then he exhibits the paintings painted by two different artists and studies the reaction. The results were similar, with no complications to birds. From this it can be concluded that pigeons have power to discriminate between the complex human arts. Which is a problem for many humans too, who are not related to art history. These birds are able to discriminate between the creations of impressionist artists and cubist artists.
    1. Pigeons have the ability to unearth cancer. I think at first you would not have heard about it at all and after reading it no one will believe it. This could be a very unusual ability for anyone. This is also discovered from a very uncommon study conducted in 2015. Where the researchers studied whether they were capable of distinguishing curable from infectious human breast cancers in radiology images. It was nothing short of a miracle for anyone. Even the human medical professional has to go under very tough training for years to detect these cancers reliably. And along with that they also have medical equipment. Using the greed of food rewards, the pigeons can be taught to discriminate between the images of  fatal and benign tissue trials. After this, they were shown some new and random tissue samples from both categories and it was found that these birds were still able to separate these samples.However, identifying breast cancer from medical images, which is a very difficult task that requires adequate and difficult training even for humans. Inexperienced humans don’t have the ability to do that. It is very obvious that no hospitals or clinics will ever make the use of pigeons for medical diagnostics purposes. But this proves one thing that pigeons are good at correct diagnosis.
  • The pigeons have a remarkable memory. If you are still not convinced, what if I told you that pigeons have very sharp memories. By the way, whenever it comes to brilliant memory, the name of elephants first comes to mind. In 1990, a study was conducted in Germany where they studied memory characteristics of pigeons. They trained pigeons to memorize more than 700 white and black optical patterns. Pigeons had to remember all of them by one by one because those patterns have very different characteristics from each other. To get the suitable food prize they had to detect about 625 negative and 100 positive patterns. This should be a notable point as it is a memory-related task, many human beings may also get into trouble with it. But the pigeons completed this task without any problems. This tells us that pigeons are very intelligent and smart. 


Pigeon Mirror Test

The mirror test is a test to check self recognition ability in all creatures sharing  this planet. The mirror test is also known as Mirror Self-Recognition test (MSR test) or mark test. The technique was developed in 1970 by Gordon Gallup Jr ,who was a famous American psychologist.

This process attempts to find out whether animals can identify themselves by looking in the is the traditional method to measure self-awareness in the organisms, however this could be done by different other methods such as discriminating the songs of their own and others.

The mirror test clear your all doubts about are pigeons intelligent?

In the mirror test the testing animal is first anesthetized and then blemished on a surface of the animal’s body that the animal normally cannot see. The mark is made either with paint or by sticking a sticker. After recovering from anesthetic effect, a mirror access is given to the animals, so they can either touch or investigate the mark.

If that creature succeeds in doing this, then it is assumed that the image that is created in the mirror is the image of itself and not of any other animal. And concluded that the creature is able to recognise itself.

Very few species of the animals have succeeded in this test like humans, great apes, Asian elephants, orcas, orangutans, dolphins, bonobos, cleaner wrasse, pigeons etc. Wide variety of species aren’t capable of passing the test, in which there are some species which we consider very intelligent.

According to the reports after training pigeons are also able to clear the mirror test. In 1981 B. F. Skinner, an American Psychologist, declared that the pigeons are also able to succeed in the newly modified mirror test after very hard training. In this study they trained pigeons to watch mirrors to find their response, for they use the food reward system. 

Then the pigeons learned how to use a mirror to detect different elements of their environment. Later, some spots are marked on their body and some food is kept when they touch the mark. The pigeons did it very perfectly.

However, continued experimentation with crows led to very bizarre results. Crows scored higher than pigeons on other tests. they have amazing facial recognition skills and superb problem solvers. 

Here is one more general question: do crows kill pigeons? The answer is crows only kill injured, ill, young and vulnerable pigeons. Pigeons are very social, peaceful and trusting birds so they never react too quickly to crows but sometimes it’s too late.


Are pigeons smarter than crows?

No, pigeons are not smarter than crows because by giving you an example if you throw a stone at a crow it will remember your face but if you do the same with pigeons then it will forget. You can feed the pigeons again and again even previously you were trying to hurt them. On the other side crows will remember your appearance and whenever you come they will try to attack you. It’s funny logic but true.

A study in japan shows the pigeon has the same level of intelligence as a 3 year old child and in case of crows they are more smart and their level of understanding is the same as a 7 year old kid.

Are pigeons dirty?

Yes they are dirty and what makes them smell bad and even having a lot of disease is when they are in an urban area they pick every edible thing that it gets even if it’s from the gutter. Pigeons even poop and sit on them for hours, It makes their smell more bad and unhygienic. Also They carry tiny insects that make humans start scratching their hands. 

You heard that rat diseases are more dangerous but pigeons carry more harmful diseases that can affect the humans lungs.

Are pigeons dumb?

No They are not stupid or dumb as you think they are. They can recognize the alphabet letter that are 26 in English language and their brain is same as a 3 year old kid as per Japanese study. Even a Study says that wild pigeons can remember the face of an individual if you try to shoo a bird and don’t give food, But that’s not common don’t worry.

Are pigeons fast?

The speed of pigeons varies from 77mph to 92 mph and did you know they can fly the whole day up to 700 miles that makes the average speed would be around 29-30 miles per hour. Pigeons are smarter as they are able to get the 26 letters of the alphabet in English and smart as a 3 year old child.

How long do pigeons live?

Pigeons as a pet can live as long as over 15 years but when they live as individuals means finding food and everything they will live for 6 years or less may be 3 years based on which climatic region they are living. For Colder regions they migrate to warm areas but those who didn’t migrate have a hard time finding food and living on their own.

What do pigeons eat?

Pigeons eat fruits, seeds, rice, grains, even if they don’t find food in urban cities they will just eat insect from the trees or feed insects on grasslands where they can find some earthworms , snails. Sometimes people eat food and the leftovers are eaten by pigeons who came by , corn and peas are also their favorite food to eat.

They even find food in trash cans, gutters and empty roads.

Wrap up

I hope you find the answer to your desired question about “How Smart Are Pigeons” and how good their memories are and can even remember for a long time. pigeons can recognize the words as well as can count the numbers. They have the ability to distinguish cancer tissues. from all the properties we can conclude that their intelligence is very high.

Also Read:

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