Effects of landmark distance and stability on accuracy of reward relocation

David James Pritchard, T. Andrew Hurly, Susan Denise Healy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Although small-scale navigation is well studied in a wide range of species, much of what is known about landmark use by vertebrates is based on laboratory experiments. To investigate how vertebrates in the wild use landmarks, we trained wild male rufous hummingbirds to feed from a flower that was placed in a constant spatial relationship with two artificial landmarks. In the first experiment, the landmarks and flower were 0.25, 0.5 or 1 m apart and we always moved them 3–4 m after each visit by the bird. In the second experiment, the landmarks and flower were always 0.25 m apart and we moved them either 1 or 0.25 m between trials. In tests, in which we removed the flower, the hummingbirds stopped closer to the predicted flower location when the landmarks had been closer to the flower during training. However, while the distance that the birds stopped from the landmarks and predicted flower location was unaffected by the distance that the landmarks moved between trials, the birds directed their search nearer to the predicted direction of the flower, relative to the landmarks, when the landmarks and flower were more stable in the environment. In the field, then, landmarks alone were sufficient for the birds to determine the distance of a reward but not its direction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1285-1297
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number6
Early online date22 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • Navigation
  • Landmarks
  • Spatial memory
  • Spatial cognition
  • Orientation
  • Hummingbirds


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