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Observational Spatial Memory in North Island Robins (Petroica Longpies)

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posted on 2021-11-12, 15:42 authored by Armstrong, Nicola Ellen

Observational spatial memory is employed by members of food-hoarding species to pilfer caches created by other individuals more effectively. North Island robins (Petroica australis) experience high levels of reciprocal cache pilferage within mate pairs. These circumstances were hypothesised to produce conditions under which advanced pilferage strategies such as observational spatial memory may evolve. Here I tested the ability of North Island robins to use observational spatial memory to discriminate between varying prey rewards. Three experiments were conducted which differed in the maximum number of prey items offered as a reward. Additional variables of retention interval, number of cache sites and a variable reward were included to assess how the birds’ memory was affected by small-scale factors. Results showed that North Island robins performed above chance expectations in most treatment combinations, indicating that they were able to utilize observational spatial memory. They were equally able to discriminate between different combinations of prey numbers that were hidden in 2, 3 and 4 caches sites from between 0, 10 and 60 seconds. Overall results indicate that North Island robins can solve complex numerical problems involving more than two parameters and up to one minute long retention intervals without training.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Ecology and Biodiversity

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Burns, Kevin; Low, Jaon