Small-scale spatial cognition in pigeons

Ken Cheng*, Marcia L. Spetch, Debbie M. Kelly, Verner P. Bingman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Roberts and Van Veldhuizen's [Roberts, W.A., Van Veldhuizen, N., 1985. Spatial memory in pigeons on the radial maze. J. Exp. Psychol.: Anim. Behav. Proc. 11, 241-260] study on pigeons in the radial maze sparked research on landmark use by pigeons in lab-based tasks as well as variants of the radial-maze task. Pigeons perform well on open-field versions of the radial maze, with feeders scattered on the laboratory floor. Pigeons can also be trained to search precisely for buried food. The search can be based on multiple landmarks, but is sometimes controlled by just one or two landmarks, with the preferred landmarks varying across individuals. Findings are similar in landmark-based searching on a computer monitor and on a lab floor, despite many differences between the two kinds of tasks. A number of general learning principles are found in landmark-based searching, such as cue competition, generalization and peak shift, and selective attention. Pigeons also learn the geometry of the environment in which they are searching. Neurophysiological studies have implicated the hippocampal formation (HF) in avian spatial cognition, with the right hippocampus hypothesized to play a more important role in the spatial recognition of goal locations. Most recently, single-cell recording from the pigeon's hippocampal formation has revealed cells with different properties from the classic 'place' cells of rats, as well as differences in the two sides of the hippocampus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-127
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2006


Dive into the research topics of 'Small-scale spatial cognition in pigeons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this