The "Virtual Pigeon" project

pigeon animation

In collaboration with Barrie Frost we have initiated a program on the neuroethology of conspecific recognition in pigeons. Pigeons do show robust courtship responses not only to real partners but also to video images. View an MPEG video (size 3.2 MB) of a male pigeon courting a female pigeon on the television.

This encouraged us to take this a step further and construct a "virtual pigeon" using high-level computer graphics tools (both  SoftImage and Maya). This gives us complete control about the actions and appearance of the model bird. Several versions have been developed so far.

Evolution of the Virtual Pigeon:

Have a look! to the last generation Virtual Pigeon now seems to be realistic enough to fool other birds. We observe full courtship response from male birds that are presented with the 3rd generation VP.

Note: To play the videos you need the DivX 4.12 codec

In collaboration with Toru Shimizu we are conducting immunohistochemical studies to investigate which brain areas are involved in social recognition. Furthermore, we are constructing miniature FM telemetry units to transmit electrophysiological data from pigeons as they observe and socially interact with the virtual pigeon.

pigeon animation


  • Frost, B.J., Troje, N.F. and David, S. (1998). Pigeon courtship behaviour in response to live birds and video presentations. 5th International Congress of Neuroethology. Poster

  • Troje, N.F., Frost, B.J. and David, S. (1998) An ethogram of the pigeon's bowing display. 5th International Congress of Neuroethology. Poster