Not so bird brained after all; pigeons care a great deal about how quickly they get a reward, and we found the neurons that carry that information!
Pigeons, just like humans, prefer rewards they don’t have to wait long for. Also like humans, pigeons will think less of rewards they need to wait for, even if those rewards are larger than the immediate ones! This process is called delay-discounting, where future rewards, big or small, are discounted based on the delay it takes to get them. This is a critical concept in economics related to interest rates, investments, and much more. We found neurons in the pigeon that are responding to these delay-discounted reward values. This may indicate discounting future rewards is an cognitive old trait shared by birds and mammals.