Research Programs

Visual Search and Prey Evolution
Spatial Cognition
and Navigation
Sociality and Cognition in Parrots
Mechanisms of
Social Cognition

Information and Downloads

National Science Foundation
National Institutes
of Health

Last updated: 25 Jan 2019

At the Avian Cognition Center, we investigate perception, foraging, and social behavior in birds, particularly corvids and parrots. Some of our studies have made use of wild populations, but we have also observed and recorded captive birds in aviary settings and operant boxes. Our primary emphasis has been on the exploration of cognitive representations, which are mental structures that reflect essential features of the outside world. An animal's cognitive representations enable it to model aspects of the world that are not immediately accessible to its senses, so it can make inferences about such things as the relationships between unfamiliar individuals or the location of concealed food resources.

This research focus has allowed us to conduct rigorous studies of the evolution of behavior, because closely related bird species often show striking differences in the way that they forage for food and structure their societies. Our work at the Center for Avian Cognition has involved a range of field and laboratory studies that integrate psychological and biological perspectives, exploring cognitive mechanisms that were molded by evolution in response to particular ecological demands.

Since 1992, our research has been funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the National Geographic Society.