Columba livia

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Scientific Name
Columba livia
Common Name
Common Pigeon
Rock Dove
Rock Pigeon
Taxa Group
Move Mode

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 19
  • Data package
    Data from: Turbulence causes kinematic and behavioural adjustments in a flapping flier
    (2024-02-20) Lempidakis, Emmanouil; Ross, Andrew N.; Quetting, Michael; Krishnan, Krishnamoorthy; Garde, Baptiste; Wikelski, Martin; Shepard, Emily L.C.
    Turbulence is a widespread phenomenon in the natural world, but its influence on flapping fliers remains little studied. We assessed how freestream turbulence affected the kinematics, flight effort, and track properties of homing pigeons (Columba livia), using the fine-scale variations in flight height as a proxy for turbulence levels. Birds showed a small increase in their wingbeat amplitude with increasing turbulence (similar to laboratory studies), but this was accompanied by a reduction in mean wingbeat frequency, such that their flapping wing speed remained the same. Mean kinematic responses to turbulence may therefore enable birds to increase their stability without a reduction in propulsive efficiency. Nonetheless, the most marked response to turbulence was an increase in the variability of wingbeat frequency and amplitude. These stroke-to-stroke changes in kinematics provide instantaneous compensation for turbulence. They will also increase flight costs. Yet pigeons only made small adjustments to their flight altitude, likely resulting in little change in exposure to strong convective turbulence. Responses to turbulence were therefore distinct from responses to wind, with the costs of high turbulence being levied through an increase in the variability of their kinematics and airspeed. This highlights the value of investigating the variability in flight parameters in free-living animals.
  • Data package
    Data from: Deconstructing the flight paths of hippocampal-lesioned homing pigeons as they navigate near home offers insight into spatial perception and memory without a hippocampus
    (2022-08-30) Gagliardo, Anna; Cioccarelli, Sara; Giunchi, Dimitri; Pollonara, Enrica; Colombo, Silvia; Casini, Giovanni; Bingman, Verner P.
    The aim of this study was to exploit detailed analyses of GPS-recorded tracks to better characterise the impact of hippocampal (HF) lesion on spatial memory and perception in the context of homing pigeon navigation when reliant on familiar landscape features near the home loft following repeated releases from the same three locations. As reported previously, following HF lesion, a low spatio-temporal resolution analysis revealed that homing pigeons fly less direct paths home once near the loft. We now further show that 1) HF-lesioned pigeons are less likely to display fidelity to a particular flight path home when released from the same locations multiple times, 2) intact pigeons are more likely to exploit leading-line landscape features, e.g., a road or the border of a woodlot, in developing flight-path fidelity and 3) even when flying a straight path HF-lesioned homing pigeons are more likely to display relatively rapid, oscillatory heading changes as if casting about for sensory, presumably visual information. The flight behaviour differences between the intact and HF-lesioned pigeons persisted across the four releases from the three locations, although the differences became smaller with increasing experience. Taken together, the GPS-track data offer a detailed characterisation of the effects of HF lesion on landscape-based, homing pigeon navigation, offering new insight into the role of the hippocampal formation in supporting memory-related, e.g., fidelity to a familiar route home, and perhaps perceptual-related, e.g., oscillating headings, navigational processes.
  • Data package
    Data from: Pigeons remember visual landmarks after one release and rely upon them more if they are anosmic
    (2020-09-24) Gagliardo, Anna; Pollonara, Enrica; Wikelski, Martin
    Anosmic birds' homing ability is impaired when challenged to navigate over unfamiliar areas. Nevertheless, anosmic pigeons, Columba livia, show unimpaired navigation when released within a familiar area, suggesting that they may rely on familiar visual landmarks for navigation. However, direct evidence for the reliance on familiar visual landmarks during homing in anosmic birds has never been provided. In this study we tracked pigeons subjected singly to one training flight from each of three locations. Prior to their second release from each site, half of the birds were made anosmic while the others were not manipulated. The level of route fidelity was analysed separately for three phases of the homing process, in which familiar visual cues may have different relevance and may be used within different cognitive strategies: (1) ‘Initial decision making’; (2) ‘En route navigation’; (3) ‘Local navigation around home’. Compared to control birds, the anosmic birds flew significantly closer to previously overflown locations in the ‘En route navigation’ phase, while no difference in route fidelity emerged during phases (1) and (3). Our results showed that a single experience is sufficient for pigeons to learn release site features, and that familiar visual landmarks constitute a critical source of navigational information in olfactorily deprived birds during the homing process.
  • Data package
    Data from: Identifying volatile organic compounds used for olfactory navigation by homing pigeons
    (2020-10-12) Zannoni, Nora; Wikelski, Martin; Gagliardo, Anna; Raza, Atif; Kramer, Stefan; Seghetti, Chiara; Wang, Nijing; Edtbauer, Achim; Williams, Jonathan
    Many bird species have the ability to navigate home after being brought to a remote, even unfamiliar location. Environmental odours have been demonstrated to be critical to homeward navigation in over 40 years of experiments, yet the chemical identity of the odours has remained unknown. In this study, we investigate potential chemical navigational cues by measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs): at the birds’ home-loft; in selected regional forest environments; and from an aircraft at 180 m. The measurements showed clear regional, horizontal and vertical spatial gradients that can form the basis of an olfactory map for marine emissions (dimethyl sulphide, DMS), biogenic compounds (terpenoids) and anthropogenic mixed air (aromatic compounds), and temporal changes consistent with a sea-breeze system. Air masses trajectories are used to examine GPS tracks from released birds, suggesting that local DMS concentrations alter their flight directions in predictable ways. This dataset reveals multiple regional-scale real-world chemical gradients that can form the basis of an olfactory map suitable for homing pigeons.
  • Data package
    Data from: The homing pigeons’ olfactory map is affected by geographical barriers
    (2021-01-19) Gagliardo, Anna; Pollonara, Enrica; Wikelski, Martin
    The factors affecting the olfaction-based navigational performances of homing pigeons released at relatively long distance (beyond 100 km from home) has in the past been subject to several investigations both in Germany and Italy using observations of vanishing bearing distributions. These studies highlighted the complexity of long-distance navigation in homing pigeons, which remains a poorly investigated aspect. In this tracking study we report how the homing performances of pigeons housed in Amino (Pisa, Italy) were affected by the presence/absence of a mountain range (the Northern Apennines) interposed between the home and the release site area (release sites: Trans = mountain barrier, Cis = no mountain barrier). We displaced unmanipulated control pigeons, anosmic pigeon, and pigeons transported in purified air to release sites located at a distance ranging between 95 and 246 km from home. There, birds were released without further manipulation. The navigational performances of anosmic pigeons were impaired at both Cis and Trans sites compared to both smelling groups. Both unmanipulated control pigeons and pigeons transported in purified air but allowed to smell environmental air at both the release site and after release displayed unimpaired navigational abilities at the Cis site, but impaired homing success and impaired homeward orientation at the Trans sites. Nevertheless, their homeward component was significantly greater than that of the anosmic birds at both geographical areas. This suggests that the Northern Apennine acts as a geographical barrier affecting the olfactory map accuracy of Amino pigeons, rather than totally reducing its spatial extent.
  • Data package
    Data from: Temporal and contextual consistency of leadership in homing pigeon flocks
    (2014-07-31) Santos, Carlos David; Neupert, Stefanie; Lipp, Hans-Peter; Wikelski, Martin; Dechmann, Dina K.N.
    Organized flight of homing pigeons (Columba livia) was previously shown to rely on simple leadership rules between flock mates, yet the stability of this social structuring over time and across different contexts remains unclear. We quantified the repeatability of leadership-based flock structures within a flight and across multiple flights conducted with the same animals. We compared two contexts of flock composition: flocks of birds of the same age and flight experience; and, flocks of birds of different ages and flight experience. All flocks displayed consistent leadership-based structures over time, showing that individuals have stable roles in the navigational decisions of the flock. However, flocks of balanced age and flight experience exhibited reduced leadership stability, indicating that these factors promote flock structuring. Our study empirically demonstrates that leadership and followership are consistent behaviours in homing pigeon flocks, but such consistency is affected by the heterogeneity of individual flight experiences and/or age. Similar evidence from other species suggests leadership as an important mechanism for coordinated motion in small groups of animals with strong social bonds.
  • Data package
    Data from: Homing pigeons only navigate in air with intact environmental odours: a test of the olfactory activation hypothesis with GPS data loggers [full dataset]
    (2012-04-01) Gagliardo, Anna; Ioalè, Paolo; Filannino, Caterina; Wikelski, Martin
    A large body of evidence has shown that anosmic pigeons are impaired in their navigation. However, the role of odours in navigation is still subject to debate. While according to the olfactory navigation hypothesis homing pigeons possess a navigational map based on the distribution of environmental odours, the olfactory activation hypothesis proposes that odour perception is only needed to activate a navigational mechanism based on cues of another nature. Here we tested experimentally whether the perception of artificial odours is sufficient to allow pigeons to navigate, as expected from the olfactory activation hypothesis. We transported three groups of pigeons in air-tight containers to release sites 53 and 61 km from home in three different olfactory conditions. The Control group received natural environmental air; both the Pure Air and the Artificial Odour groups received pure air filtered through an active charcoal filter. Only the Artificial Odour group received additional puffs of artificial odours until release. We then released pigeons while recording their tracks with 1 Hz GPS data loggers. We also followed non-homing pigeons using an aerial data readout to a Cessna plane, allowing, for the first time, the tracking of non-homing homing pigeons. Within the first hour after release, the pigeons in both the Artificial Odour and the Pure Air group (receiving no environmental odours) showed impaired navigational performances at each release site. Our data provide evidence against an activation role of odours in navigation, and document that pigeons only navigate well when they perceive environmental odours.
  • Data package
    Data from: Behavioural traits of individual homing pigeons, Columba livia f. domestica, in their homing flights
    (2018-10-03) Schiffner, Ingo; Wiltschko, Wolfgang; Wiltschko, Roswitha
    Homing tracks of two groups of pigeons, Columba livia f. domestica, were analyzed in view of difference between individual birds and correlations between characteristic variables, looking at the initial phase while the pigeons were still at the release site, and the homing phase separately. Individual birds differed significantly in their flying speed during the initial phase, and one pigeon tended to stay longer at the release site than the others. There were no significant differences in steadiness and efficiency, indicating that all pigeons homed equally well. Differences in correlation dimension, a variable reflecting the complexity of the navigational process, reflect differences in the use of navigational information, with one bird apparently using less complex information than others. The flying speed during the initial phase was positively correlated with the flying speed during the homing phase. During the homing phase, the steadiness of flight and the efficiency of homing were closely correlated, and both tended to be positively correlated with the correlation dimension, suggesting that birds that use more complex navigational information home more efficiently.
  • Data package
    Data from: GPS-profiling of retrograde navigational impairments associated with hippocampal lesion in homing pigeons
    (2021-06-15) Gagliardo, Anna; Colombo, Silvia; Pollonara, Enrica; Casini, Giovanni; Rossino, Maria Grazia; Wikelski, Martin; Bingman, Verner P.
    The avian hippocampal formation (HF) is homologous to the mammalian hippocampus and plays a central role in the control of spatial cognition. In homing pigeons, HF supports navigation by familiar landmarks and landscape features. However, what has remained relatively unexplored is the importance of HF for the retention of previously acquired spatial information. For example, to date, no systematic GPS-tracking studies on the retention of HF-dependent navigational memory in homing pigeons have been performed. Therefore, the current study was designed to compare the pre- and post-surgical navigational performance of sham-lesioned control and HF-lesioned pigeons tracked from three different sites located in different directions with respect to home. The pre- and post-surgical comparison of the pigeons’ flight paths near the release sites and before reaching the area surrounding the home loft (4 km radius from the loft) revealed that the control and HF-lesioned pigeons displayed similarly successful retention. By contrast, the HF-lesioned pigeons displayed dramatically and consistently impaired retention in navigating to their home loft during the terminal phase of the homing flight near home, i.e., where navigation is supported by memory for landmark and landscape features. The data demonstrate that HF lesions lead to a dramatic loss of pre-surgically acquired landmark and landscape navigational information while sparing those mechanisms associated with navigation from locations distant from home.
  • Data package
    Data from: Evidence for pre-mnemonic, perceptual neglect of environmental features in hippocampal lesioned pigeons during homing
    (2014-07-31) Gagliardo, Anna; Pollonara, Enrica; Coppola, Vincent J; Santos, Carlos David; Bingman, Verner P.
    The importance of the vertebrate hippocampus in spatial cognition is often related to its broad role in memory. However, in birds, the hippocampus appears to be more specifically involved in spatial processes. The maturing of GPS-tracking technology has enabled a revolution in navigation research, including the expanded possibility of studying brain mechanisms that guide navigation in the field. By GPS-tracking homing pigeons released from distant, unfamiliar sites prior to and after hippocampal lesion, we observed, as has been reported previously, impaired navigational performance postlesion over the familiar/memorized space near the home loft, where topographic features constitute an important source of navigational information. The GPS-tracking revealed that many of the lost pigeons, when lesioned, approached the home area, but nevertheless failed to locate their loft. Unexpectedly, when they were hippocampal-lesioned, the pigeons showed a notable change in their behaviour when navigating over the unfamiliar space distant from home; they actually flew straighter homeward-directed paths than they did prelesion. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that, following hippocampal lesion, homing pigeons respond less to unfamiliar visual, topographic features encountered during homing, and, as such, offer the first evidence for an unforeseen, perceptual neglect of environmental features following hippocampal damage.