On the search for avian visual cognition experiments From laboratory to naturalistic conditions (#369)
Visual cognition in birds is often tested in restricted and controlled conditions (i.e. laboratory conditions) and only in a few species of birds (e.g. Pigeons Columbia livia). The results obtained from these studies can inform us on the birds ‘abilities to discriminate and categorize several pictures or objects for example. Nevertheless, the question of how birds perceive and process biological or artificial stimuli in natural conditions remains an ultimate aim of such questions.
In a series of studies performed on a variety of species (e.g. passerine, gallinacean, raptors), we tested the validity of laboratory-issued results, performed on caged animals, in other contexts such as naturalistic settings (e.g. aviaries) or field conditions. In order to do so, we developed a series of cognitive tests adapted to these conditions and compared the birds’ reactions to those obtained in the laboratory setting. The results show 1) variations between species in the adaptability to different experimental procedures, 2) that the same stimuli elicit similar types of reactions in the different settings; 3) however the precise types of reactions (e.g. freezing / flight) clearly depend on context.
The various experimental possibilities of testing avian visual cognition exposed here are then discussed.