Abstract

Traditionally, investigations of cognition have been carried out in laboratory conditions, but such conditions provide unnatural and frequently stressful environments for wild-caught animals. Taking the study of cognitive ecology into the wild allows directly assessing animals’ abilities in their natural environment and investigate the fitness consequences of variation in specific cognitive abilities, which is one of the main goals of cognitive ecology. However, studying cognition in the wild brings challenges as it is more difficult to implement correct cognitive tasks in such conditions. Here, I discuss some of the recent advances in avian cognitive ecology in the wild, while also highlighting work to illustrate how existing challenges make interpretation of some studies difficult. Overall, bringing the study of cognition to the wild provides unprecedented new opportunities to address many fundamental questions in cognitive ecology, but it requires the proper design and implementation of cognitive tasks to measure specific cognitive abilities. • Animal cognition traditionally studies in the lab. • Lab studies cannot address many ecological and evolutionary questions. • Field studies provide opportunities to study fitness consequence of cognition. • Many challenges remain to properly measure and interpret cognition in the wild.

Full Text
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