Watering Hole: Monday, December 26, 2011 – Is the Pigeon Smarter Than the Shooter?

One of the major issues that I fight for is the ending of the live pigeon shoots that are currently allowed in Pennsylvania.  I have written extensively about this animal cruelty at Pennsylvania for Change. Most of the time, these pigeons are brought into the state illegally from New York.  The captured birds are denied food and water for a few days and crated off to some rod and gun club for the big gambling event known as live pigeon shoots.  The dehydrated and weakened birds are tossed into the air and then the “Elmer Fudds” take a shot at them.  It is cruel and brutal and I won’t go into more details.  I’ve seen these “Elmer Fudds” in action and they truly look like Neanderthals (my apologies to the Neanderthals).

It turns out that pigeons may actually be smarter than these “Elmer Fudds”.  A recent study shows that pigeons are capable of higher math.

Pigeons, it turns out, are no slouches either. It was known that they could count. But all sorts of animals, including bees, can count. Pigeons have now shown that they can learn abstract rules about numbers, an ability that until now had been demonstrated only in primates. In the 1990s scientists trained rhesus monkeys to look at groups of items on a screen and to rank them from the lowest number of items to the highest.

They learned to rank groups of one, two and three items in various sizes and shapes. When tested, they were able to do the task even when unfamiliar numbers of things were introduced. In other words, having learned that two was more than one and three more than two, they could also figure out that five was more than two, or eight more than six.

So who is the higher species?  “Elmer Fudds” or the pigeons.  My money is on the pigeons.

This is our Open Thread.  Where are you placing your bet?  Speak Up!