Pigeon head bobbing

The Functional Significance of Head-Bobbing in Birds

Head movement of a walking pigeon is characterized by two alternating phases -- a thrust phase and a hold phase. While the head is rapidly thrust forward during the thrust phase, it remains fixed in space during the hold phase. This is most liely an optokinetic response. However, it remains unclear why some bird species show head-bobbing while others can well survive without it. Furthermore, we don't yet know whether the thrust phase has a visual function on its own. We are working on both these que stions.


  • Troje, N.F. and Frost, B.J. (1999) Evidence for active vision during the thrust-phase of the pigeon's head-bobbing. Paper presented at the 9th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science, Edmonton, Alberta. Abstract

  • Troje, N.F. and Frost, B.J. (2000) Head-bobbing in pigeons: how stable is the hold phase? Journal of Experimental Biology 203:935-940. Full Text / Abstract