Bird's eye view: Pigeons are trained as fussy art critics in bizarre study
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:00 AM on 03rd July 2009
It may explain why they flock to Trafalgar Square. They're there to visit the National Gallery.
Pigeons, it seems, can discriminate between art techniques and can even judge their quality.
According to scientists, given the incentive of food, racing pigeons can be trained to study the colour, pattern and texture of paintings and evaluate them like an art critic.
Their experiment was divided into two halves: the first saw four pigeons placed in a chamber with a computer monitor displaying watercolour and pastel paintings by schoolchildren.
The paintings were divided into 'good' and 'bad' categories by 11 adults, including an art teacher, depending on whether the images were clear and precise.
The pigeons were shown some of the paintings from each category and rewarded with food when they pecked at the good pictures, but not the bad ones.
They were then presented with a mixture of new and old paintings from both categories and the researchers noted the birds consistently pecked at the 'good' paintings more often.
Their judgment was unaffected when the paintings were reduced in size or partly hidden.
However, when they were presented with monochrome paintings, they were no longer able to distinguish between the paintings, indicating that they use colour to discriminate.
The second experiment looked at eight new pigeons, which were trained to recognise the paintings' texture - four were trained to peck at watercolours and four at pastels.
As before, when shown a mixture of new and old paintings, pigeons used both colour and shape cues to discriminate between textures accurately.
Professor Shigeru Watanabe, from Keio University in Japan, said of his research, published in the journal Animal Cognition: 'This research does not deal with advanced artistic judgments, but it shows that pigeons are able to acquire the ability to judge beauty similar to that of humans.'