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Pigeons Can Use Touchscreens (VIDEO)

03/06/2013 09:55 BST | Updated 02/08/2013 10:12 BST

Pigeons aren't universally considered to be the most intelligent of birds. (We're reliably informed ravens make fun of them at parties). But new research suggests that the ubiquitous urban avians might have been a little underestimated all these years.

A test by psychologists at the University of Iowa showed that the birds are able to make intelligent choices and solve problems - and even use a touchscreen.

The study focused on the venerable 'string task', in which a treat is suspended from one of two strings and the animal has to reel in the right one.

The team used virtual strings on a touchscreen instead of real strings, but the birds showed they were able to make the leap and touch the right areas of the screen to produce a real treat.

The shift to a digital version of the methodology opens up the chance to test different types of animals, and in different configurations.

The birds were able to accurately choose the right string about 74% to 90% of the time.

"The pigeons proved that they could indeed learn this task with a variety of different string configurations, even those that involved crossed strings, the most difficult of all configurations to learn with real strings," said Edward Wasserman, Stuit Professor of Experimental Psychology at Iowa.