Can pigeons 'read'?

Be careful what you read in the park. You might have a pigeon reading right along with you over your shoulder. A new study says the birds can recognize words better than small children.

- Be careful what you read in the park. You might have a pigeon reading right along with you over your shoulder. A new study says the birds can recognize words better than small children.

As director of New York City's only wildlife rehabilitation center, Rita McMahon and her team at the Wild Bird Fund on the Upper West Side cared for 3,500 birds last year. Half of them were feral pigeons.

Rita needed no evidence from any study to affirm for her the intellectual capacity of a pigeon. She says they can do higher math that only the top primates can do.

The most recent pigeon revelation -- this one published in Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences -- found a trained pigeon could differentiate between nearly 60 different four-letter words and even identify simple misspellings.

Pigeons are not rare. An estimated 400 million exist in the world.  A million of those are in New York City.

While manmade coops for these not-endangered birds may have dwindled, none in this city go a day in which they step outside without seeing a pigeon, a bird we humans once bred, trained and then released into the wild and whose bird-brains we now walk right by often without giving them much thought while they perhaps understand more than we know.

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