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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/785

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THE METHOD OF HOMING PIGEONS.

he sees the red brick courthouse near the State Capitol. He flies thither, but on reaching the city nothing looks familiar, and he spends little time in circling over it. He is soon lost to view at X. His course thus far measures about ten miles; time, a trifle over eight minutes. He was liberated at four o'clock, and after being lost at x he was next seen as he swooped down from the west to settle upon the roof of the loft at 5.10. As it is almost certain that he flew continuously, this leaves sixty minutes unaccounted for, and at a moderate estimate fifty miles of search-line not drawn upon the chart. Were it possible to fill this in, how much "sense of direction" should we need to invoke to account for his finding home? He has flown certainly eleven miles, almost as surely sixty, to find a good-sized barn half a mile away.

The result of education is seen in his subsequent flights. A week later he flies home from the same hill in less than a minute. Two weeks later still he flies from the university almost as straight as though he did have a "sense of direction." Upon the question of education, however, we must compare Fig. 3 with similar tracings of another bird. No. 5, given in Fig. 4. In the first trial No. 5 (continuous line. Fig. 4) succeeds in reaching home from the open cage without much difficulty. Liberated from a boat on Lake Monona for a second trial, he flies wildly (the broken line seen in Fig. 4). This tracing gives an index to the harum-scarum character of the bird. Unlike No. 2, which looks over the likely places carefully and then moves on. No. 5 is careless, has no confidence in his ability, and consequently looks the same ground over and over again (see 1, 2, and 3, Fig. 4). At a he flies out to the familiar hill, and thence does strike out in the right direction (b, Fig. 4) and goes close to home (c), but stupidly fails to recognize it, and flies back to the boat again for a fresh start. No. 5 shows no improvement with education. When carried to the hill for a third trial (dotted line. Fig. 4), he circles for a moment, and then seeing the red barn by the farmhouse, he starts off the wrong way. This bird, with eleven others, is subsequently sent away six miles, and he alone of the twelve fails to return. No doubt there are stupid pigeons as well as stupid men.

Two points of some little interest from their bearing upon comparative psychology may be mentioned in this connection. The first is the definite reaction to color which the pigeons unquestionably gave. Until they had completed their education so far as to know the landscape pretty well, and had learned that there are many red houses and barns in the world, a red building was enough to determine their flight with almost mathematical precision. The second point is one which the Peckhams have noted