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Magpies can use local cues to retrieve their food caches

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gesa Feenders, Dr Tom SmuldersORCiD


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Much importance has been placed on the use of spatial cues by food-hoarding birds in the retrieval of their caches. In this study, we investigate whether food-hoarding birds can be trained to use local cues ("beacons") in their cache retrieval. We test magpies (Pica pica) in an active hoarding-retrieval paradigm, where local cues are always reliable, while spatial cues are not. Our results show that the birds use the local cues to retrieve their caches, even when occasionally contradicting spatial information is available. The design of our study does not allow us to test rigorously whether the birds prefer using local over spatial cues, nor to investigate the process through which they learn to use local cues. We furthermore provide evidence that magpies develop landmark preferences, which improve their retrieval accuracy. Our findings support the hypothesis that birds are flexible in their use of memory information, using a combination of the most reliable or salient information to retrieve their caches.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Feenders G, Smulders TV

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Animal Cognition

Year: 2011

Volume: 14

Issue: 2

Pages: 235-243

Print publication date: 01/03/2011

ISSN (print): 1435-9448

ISSN (electronic): 1435-9456

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s10071-010-0357-2


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