Wild rufous hummingbirds use local landmarks to return to rewarded locations

David James Pritchard, Renee D. Scott, Susan Denise Healy, Andrew T. Hurly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Animals may remember an important location with reference to one or more visual landmarks. In the laboratory, birds and mammals often preferentially use landmarks near a goal (“local landmarks”) to return to that location at a later date. Although we know very little about how animals in the wild use landmarks to remember locations, mammals in the wild appear to prefer to use distant landmarks to return to rewarded locations. To examine what cues wild birds use when returning to a goal, we trained free-living hummingbirds to search for a reward at a location that was specified by three nearby visual landmarks. Following training we expanded the landmark array to test the extent that the birds relied on the local landmarks to return to the reward. During the test the hummingbirds' search was best explained by the birds having used the experimental landmarks to remember the reward location. How the birds used the landmarks was not clear and seemed to change over the course of each test. These wild hummingbirds, then, can learn locations in reference to nearby visual landmarks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
JournalBehavioural Processes
Early online date10 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • Spatial cognition
  • Navigation
  • Landmarks
  • Spatial learning
  • Hummingbirds


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