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Human Facial Recognition by Northern Mockingbirds

By Jessica A. Stehlin, Janice Crook-Hill, Brad Bailey

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A number of studies have examined the ability of various animal species to recognize individual humans, but only a few have focused on native, non-captive birds. Previous research demonstrated that American Crows learn to recognize individual human faces. Other research indicated that Northern Mockingbirds learn to discriminate among individual humans, but did not examine the factors involved in the discrimination. Here we report on a study of Northern Mockingbirds on the University of North Georgia campus in Dahlonega, GA, to test the hypothesis that Northern Mockingbirds learn to distinguish among individual humans based on facial recognition. Our field tests involved approaching and touching mockingbird nests on successive days and recording the responses of parent birds. We used masks of human faces which we interchanged among researchers to determine if birds key on faces as a discriminating factor. The mockingbirds we tested indicated an ability to distinguish among humans based on facial recognition. Our research has received funding from the UNG Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities and from the UNG Department of Biology.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Publication Title Papers & Publications: Interdisciplinary Journal of Undergraduate Research
Volume 6
Pages 9
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Jessica A. Stehlin; Janice Crook-Hill; Brad Bailey (2018), "Human Facial Recognition by Northern Mockingbirds,"

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  1. Animal roles
  2. Birds
  3. Face
  4. open access
  5. recognition
  6. Wild animals
  1. open access