When we think of pigeons, we often conjure up the image of flying pests that eat our littered food and scare the occasional passer by! Lets be honest, people don’t hold the highest opinions of the common bird and for pretty unjustified reasons being no more than ‘they’re in the way!’. So now is the pigeons chance to shine and show that they have a greater purpose in life than avoiding the occasional kick from an adolescent or hunting the nearest discarded chip.
Dr Richard Levenson believed in the birds we’re surrounded with and put them to the ultimate scientific test. Inside the University of California, your average city pigeon was tested and what was found was pretty shocking. Contrary to common belief and misconception, the pigeon can actually differentiate and learn to identify differences between medical images of a normal breast tissue compared to showing a cancerous medical image of breast tissue.
“… Levenson and his colleagues showed pigeons microscope images of breast tissue. Then they rewarded them when they correctly pecked a coloured button that corresponded to either cancerous or healthy tissue. After 15 daily sessions, each lasting an hour, the pigeons got the answer 85 per cent of the time.”
After doing these tests, the researchers compiled the data collected and used a method named ‘flock sourcing’ to come to the final conclusion that the pigeon was correct an amazing 99% of the time. They did this by comparing all the results for multiple pigeons and going with the majoritive answer.
This is not the first time people have given birds credit for being intelligent animals, in fact Crows, another fairly unpopular common bird was tested and found to be about tosolve complex puzzles and identify and recognize different human faces. In fact, scientists have gone as far to say that the common Crow can be compared to a 5 year old human, in terms of intelligence levels!
What do you think? Would you trust a pigeon to dianose your medical scans or leave it to the professionals? Either way, we have definitely not been giving the pigeons the credit they deserve!