ABOVE: A pigeon wearing a movement logger

By developing a bespoke helmet with movement-tracking capability, researchers have studied visual attention in homing pigeons, according to a study published September 6 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Because pigeons move their heads in coordination with their eye movements, the former can be used as a proxy for their visual attention. The trackers, strapped to the birds’ heads, logged data about their head movements and location. 


The researchers found that the birds moved their heads more when flying alone than when flying in pairs. They also decreased this scanning behavior when flying over major landmarks such as railway tracks. The study concluded that a drop in head movement implied a shift in the pigeon’s focus. 

F. Kano et al., “Head-mounted sensors reveal visual attention of free-flying homing pigeons,” J Exp Biol, doi:10.1242/jeb.183475, 2018.

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?