Pigeons may not be so bird-brained after all, as scientists have found the birds’ ability to understand numbers is on par with that of primates.
Previous studies have shown that various animals, from honeybees to chimpanzees, can learn to count when trained with food rewards. In 1998, researchers discovered that rhesus monkeys can not only learn to count to four, but can also pick up on numerical rules and apply them to numbers they haven’t seen before, allowing them to count up to nine without further training.
With this finding in mind, psychologists at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, sought to find out if pigeons — another animal shown to count — have a numerical competence similar to rhesus monkeys.
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