Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School


First Advisor

Kristi Judd

Second Advisor

Marianne Laporte


Anthropogenic impacts drive global changes that can negatively impact wildlife. For example, using lead pipes in Flint, MI has resulted in contaminated drinking water that is likely to have moved into the environment through irrigation. Juvenile American robins (Turdus migratorius) captured in watered parks of Flint have blood-lead levels considered dangerous to brain functioning. The purpose of this study was to develop and test a feeder puzzle for assessing the cognitive effects of lead in wild urban songbirds. We predicted that songbirds could learn how to feed from a feeder puzzle, and if they visited the feeder in groups, then the solution to the puzzle could potentially be transferred by social learning within the group. Furthermore, we predicted that cognition task success could be assessed by monitoring how species interact with the feeder. The prototype was visited by American robins (Turdus migratorius), house sparrows (Passer domesticus), and European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Sparrows and starlings demonstrated the potential for social transmission by visiting the puzzle in small groups. Furthermore, starlings solved the puzzle to access food, suggesting that the feeder could be used to evaluate how lead affects songbird cognition and learning.

Included in

Biology Commons