Chickadee Memory

For over 20 years, Vladimir Pravosudov and his students have made the trek from the University of Nevada – Reno to Sagehen every week (usually, every day) to study the humble Mountain Chickadee. The Pravosudov lab focuses on Animal Behavior and Behavioral Ecology with special emphasis on animal cognition. As non-migratory birds that have to store enough food to survive the winter (and remember where they left it), chickadees are a great model organism for this work.

The team has established…

an RFID-based method to measure spatial learning directly in the field in large number of individuals and we investigate whether individual variation in spatial learning has fitness consequences to survival and reproduction. We annually band hundreds of chickadees with unique PIT-tags and monitor 200+ nestboxes.

Recent research and publications explore questions like elevational differences in cognition and memory, memory and problem-solving trade-off, elevation effects on social dominance, and dialects of chickadees from different elevations.

Natural Selection and Spatial Cognition/ Curr. Biol., Feb. 7, 2019 (Vol. 29, Issue 4)

(Wait for slider to load completely, or swipe to advance–or reverse–the pictures.)

Selected bibliography:

(see more on our Publications page)

  1. Sonnenberg, Branch, Pitera, Bridge, Pravosudov. “Natural Selection and Spatial Cognition in Wild Food-Caching Mountain Chickadees.” Current Biology, (2019).
  2. Branch, Carrie L., J. P. Jahner, D. Y. Kozlovsy, T. L. Parchman, and V. V. Pravosudov. “Absence of Population Structure across Elevational Gradients despite Large Phenotypic Variation in Mountain Chickadees (Poecile Gambeli).” R. Soc. Open Sci. 4, no. 170057 (2017).
  3. Branch, Carrie L., Dovid Y. Kozlovsky, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Elevation-Related Differences in Female Mate Preference in Mountain Chickadees: Are Smart Chickadees Choosier?” Animal Behaviour 99 (January 2015): 89–94.
  4. Branch, Carrie L., D. Y. Kozlovsy, R. Croston, A. M. Pitera, and V. V. Pravosudov. “Mountain Chickadees Return to Their Post-Natal Dispersal Settlements Following Long-Term Captivity.” Behaviour 153 (2016): 551–67.
  5. Branch, Carrie L., and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Mountain Chickadees from Different Elevations Sing Different Songs: Acoustic Adaptation, Temporal Drift or Signal of Local Adaptation?” Royal Society Open Science 2, no. 4 (April 1, 2015): 150019.
  6. Buchanan, Katherine L., Jennifer L. Grindstaff, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Condition Dependence, Developmental Plasticity, and Cognition: Implications for Ecology and Evolution.” Trends in Ecology & Evolution 28, no. 5 (May 2013): 290–96.
  7. Croston, R., C. L. Branch, A. M. Pitera, D. Y. Kozlovsy, E. S. Bridge, T. L. Parchman, and V. V. Pravosudov. “Predictably Harsh Environment Is Associated with Reduced Cognitive Flexibility in Wild Food-Caching Mountain Chickadees.” Animal Behaviour, 2017, 123, 139–49.
  8. Croston, Rebecca, Carrie L. Branch, Dovid Y. Kozlovsky, Timothy C. Roth, Lara D. LaDage, Cody A. Freas, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Potential Mechanisms Driving Population Variation in Spatial Memory and the Hippocampus in Food-Caching Chickadees.” Integrative and Comparative Biology, May 11, 2015, icv029.
  9. Croston, Rebecca, D. Y. Kozlovsy, C. L. Branch, T. L. Parchman, E. S. Bridge, and V. V. Pravosudov. “Individual Variation in Spatial Memory Performance in Wild Mountain Chickadees from Different Elevations.” Animal Behaviour 111 (2016): 225–34.
  10. Fox, R.A., T.C. Roth, L.D. LaDage, and V.V. Pravosudov. “No Effect of Social Group Composition or Size on Hippocampal Formation Morphology and Neurogenesis in Mountain Chickadees (Poecile Gambeli).” Developmental Neurobiology 70, no. 7 (2010): 538–47.
  11. Fox, Rebecca A., Lara D. Ladage, Timothy C. Roth II, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Behavioural Profile Predicts Dominance Status in Mountain Chickadees, Poecile Gambeli.” Animal Behaviour 77, no. 6 (June 2009): 1441–48.
  12. Freas, C.A., K. Bingman, L.D. LaDage, and V.V. Pravosudov. “Untangling Elevation-Related Differences in the Hippocampus in Food-Caching Mountain Chickadees: The Effect of a Uniform Captive Environment.” Brain, Behavior and Evolution 82, no. 3 (2013): 199–209.
  13. Freas, Cody A., Lara D. LaDage, Timothy C. Roth II, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Elevation-Related Differences in Memory and the Hippocampus in Mountain Chickadees, Poecile Gambeli.” Animal Behaviour 84, no. 1 (July 2012): 121–27.
  14. Freas, Cody A., Timothy C. Roth, Lara D. LaDage, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Hippocampal Neuron Soma Size Is Associated with Population Differences in Winter Climate Severity in Food-Caching Chickadees.” Functional Ecology 27, no. 6 (December 1, 2013): 1341–49. 
  15. Kozlovsky, Dovid, Carrie Branch, Cody A. Freas, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Elevation-Related Differences in Novel Environment Exploration and Social Dominance in Food-Caching Mountain Chickadees.” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68, no. 11 (August 23, 2014): 1871–81.
  16. Kozlovsky, Dovid Y. “The Relationship between Environment, Behavior, Cognition and the Brain in Specialized Food-Caching Chickadees.” Ph.D., UNR, 2017.
  17. Kozlovsky, Dovid Y., Carrie L. Branch, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Elevation-Related Differences in Parental Risk-Taking Behavior Are Associated with Cognitive Variation in Mountain Chickadees.” Ethology 121, no. 4 (April 1, 2015): 383–94. 
  18. ———. “Problem-Solving Ability and Response to Novelty in Mountain Chickadees (Poecile Gambeli) from Different Elevations.” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69, no. 4 (February 17, 2015): 635–43.
  19. Kozlovsky, Dovid Y., E.A. Weissgerber, and V.V. Pravosudov. “What Makes Specialized Food-Caching Mountain Chickadees Successful City Slickers?” Proc. R. Soc. B 284, no. 20162613 (2017).
  20. LaDage, L.D., T.C. Roth, R.A. Fox, and V.V. Pravosudov. “Effects of Captivity and Memory-Based Experiences on the Hippocampus in Mountain Chickadees.” Behavioral Neuroscience 123, no. 2 (2009): 284.
  21. ———. “Ecologically Relevant Spatial Memory Use Modulates Hippocampal Neurogenesis.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 277, no. 1684 (2010): 1071–79.
  22. ———. “Flexible Cue Use in Food-Caching Birds.” Animal Cognition 12, no. 3 (2009): 419–26.
  23. Pravosudov, V. V. “Cold Weather Cognition.” Biosphere, 2017.
  24. ———. “Long-Term Moderate Elevation of Corticosterone Facilitates Avian Food-Caching Behaviour and Enhances Spatial Memory.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 270, no. 1533 (December 22, 2003): 2599–2604.
  25. ———. “Memory, Learning, Hormones and Behavior.” In Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, edited by Michael D. Breed and Janice Moore, 429–37. Oxford: Academic Press, 2010.
  26. ———. “Mountain Chickadees Discriminate between Potential Cache Pilferers and Non-Pilferers.” In Proc. of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, 2008.
  27. Pravosudov, Vladimir V. “On Seasonality in Food-Storing Behaviour in Parids: Do We Know the Whole Story?” Animal Behaviour 71, no. 6 (June 1, 2006): 1455–60.
  28. Pravosudov, Vladimir V., and Nicola S. Clayton. “Effects of Demanding Foraging Conditions on Cache Retrieval Accuracy in Food-Caching Mountain Chickadees (Poecile Gambeli).” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 268, no. 1465 (February 22, 2001): 363–68. 
  29. Pravosudov, Vladimir V., Alexander S. Kitaysky, Colin J. Saldanha, John C. Wingfield, and Nicola S. Clayton. “The Effect of Photoperiod on Adrenocortical Stress Response in Mountain Chickadees (Poecile Gambeli).” General and Comparative Endocrinology 126, no. 2 (April 2002): 242–48.
  30. Pravosudov, Vladimir V., Alexander S. Kitaysky, John C. Wingfield, and Nicola S. Clayton. “Long-Term Unpredictable Foraging Conditions and Physiological Stress Response in Mountain Chickadees (Poecile Gambeli).” General and Comparative Endocrinology 123, no. 3 (September 2001): 324–31.
  31. Pravosudov, Vladimir V, Sally P Mendoza, and Nicola S Clayton. “The Relationship between Dominance, Corticosterone, Memory, and Food Caching in Mountain Chickadees (Poecile Gambeli).” Hormones and Behavior 44, no. 2 (August 2003): 93–102.
  32. Pravosudov, Vladimir V., and Alicja Omanska. “Prolonged Moderate Elevation of Corticosterone Does Not Affect Hippocampal Anatomy or Cell Proliferation Rates in Mountain Chickadees (Poecile Gambeli).” Journal of Neurobiology 62, no. 1 (January 1, 2005): 82–91.
  33. Pravosudov, Vladimir V., and Timothy C. Roth II. “Cognitive Ecology of Food Hoarding: The Evolution of Spatial Memory and the Hippocampus.” Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 44, no. 1 (2013): 173–93.
  34. Pravosudov, V.V., T.C. Roth, and L.D. LaDage. “Chickadees Are Selfish Group Members When It Comes to Food Caching.” Animal Behaviour 80, no. 2 (2010): 175–80.
  35. Tello-Ramos, Maria C., Carrie L. Branch, Dovid Y. Kozlovsky, Angela M. Pitera, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Spatial Memory and Cognitive Flexibility Trade-Offs: To Be or Not to Be Flexible, That Is the Question.” Animal Behaviour, March 21, 2018.
  36. Tello-Ramos, Maria C., Carrie L. Branch, Angela M. Pitera, Dovid Y. Kozlovsky, Eli S. Bridge, and Vladimir V. Pravosudov. “Memory in Wild Mountain Chickadees from Different Elevations: Comparing First-Year Birds with Older Survivors.” Animal Behaviour 137 (March 1, 2018): 149–60.