Pigeons can be taught to read

Pigeons can be taught to read

Pigeons can be taught to read, according to a new study.

It is thought the feathered animals might be able to distinguish words from non-words like humans and monkeys.

Research carried out by the scientists from the University of Otago in New Zealand used 18 pigeons to carry out their research and these were narrowed down to the smartest four using a method called autoshaping - a process that involves using a flashlight through a hole to attract the pigeons to food.

It is repeated to train the birds to know that after each light signal comes food.

This method was then used, swapping the light for words.

Speaking about the study, researchers said: ''When a word was presented in the centre aperture (hole), the correct response was to peck the word. When a non-word was presented in the centre aperture (hole), the correct response was to peck the star stimulus (star icon).''

Each time they correctly identified the word or non-word, the birds were rewarded with food.

The pigeons were trained for more than eight months and the four ''smartest'' birds learnt around 43 words.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.