Skip to main content

Pigeons Master Touchscreens, Prove Smarter Than an Awful Lot of Humans

It's only a matter of time before they seize control of our governments.

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 1.54.48 PM

Odds are that even if you don’t live in a city and aren’t forced to interact with stupid pigeons on a daily basis, you probably still think they’re… well, stupid, right? Wrong. They’re not stupid. Researchers at the University of Iowa tested pigeons on their ability to use touchscreens similar to those found on your smartphone, and they’re really, really good at it. They’re probably better at working an iPhone than your grandparents are, and without the added benefit of opposable thumbs. This does not bode well for us as a species.

The “string test” is a popular method of experimentation that tests the intelligence of animals (or sometimes babies — babies are dumb, too, am I right?) by placing a treat at the end of a string and offering a choice between two strings to see if the subject can pick the right one. Ed Wasserman and his research team decided to take the concept a step further by creating a program with virtual strings that shortened as the pigeon pecked at the corresponding button to get at the image of the treat.

In the videos that the researchers took, each bird shows little to no hesitation as they peck furiously at the correct “string” every time and then immediately head to their actual, non-virtual treat dish as soon as the lights go up. We can’t embed those videos here, unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to stop everything and watch them right now, because they are as hilarious and as worrisome as they sound. Seriously, we need to stop being so mean to pigeons on the sidewalk, guys. They’re probably planning their vengeance against us as we speak. I mean, they already use statues of our celebrated heroes as their toilets — what’s next?


Meanwhile in related links

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue: