Department of Biological Sciences

The Avian Cognition Laboratory is dedicated to investigating the behavior, ecology, and genetics of seed caching birds in the family Corvidae. Drs. Russell Balda and Alan Kamil designed the research facility in 1986 within the NAU Department of Biological Sciences.

pinyon jay avain lab
  • The laboratory consists of several rooms for researching spatial memory and social cognition, and indoor and outdoor aviaries for other types of behavioral experiments. A freestanding aviary is used for studying spatial navigation.
  • The research program integrates ecological, psychological, and molecular techniques. It emphasizes the importance of natural history in the evolution of behavioral traits, especially those associated with the mental capabilities of organisms.
  • Initial laboratory studies explored the spatial memory of the Clark’s Nutcracker – which may have a better spatial memory than any other species, including humans.
  • Ongoing research includes studies of population and evolutionary dynamics, learning, parenting, and habitat use of pinyon jays.
Russell Benford, Manager
Avian Cognition Laboratory
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5640
Phone: (928) 523-1355
Fax: (928) 523-7500
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