Landmark use by pigeons in a touch-screen spatial search task

Marcia L. Spetch*, Ken Cheng, Michael V. Mondloch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Pigeons obtained food by pecking at an unmarked target location on a video screen equipped with a touch-sensitive frame. The target area was located near the top edge of the screen in Experiment 1 and near the left edge of the screen in Experiment 2. On baseline trials, a graphic landmark was located below and left of the target (Experiment 1) or below and right of the target (Experiment 2). In both experiments, baseline search distributions showed a single peak and were roughly symmetrical about the target area in both horizontal and vertical dimensions. On occasional test trials, the landmark was shifted horizontally, vertically, or diagonally by 1.5 cm or 3 cm. In both experiments, landmark shifts in the dimension parallel to the nearest edge produced systematic shifts in the peak place of search. Landmark shifts in the dimension perpendicular to the nearest edge produced inconsistent (Experiment 1) or relatively small (Experiment 2) shifts in peak place. The magnitude of the behavioral shift was always less than the magnitude of the landmark shift and was not consistently greater when the landmark was shifted by 3 cm than when it was shifted by 1.5 cm. These results demonstrated that pigeons can accurately locate an unmarked target area in a two-dimensional vertical arena and that their use of landmarks for spatial localization is similar in several respects to that found in open-field spatial search tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-292
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Learning & Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1992
Externally publishedYes


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