is wild bird panic always genetically imprinted?

I believe wild birds at least in the USA have a genetic imprint for fear and fly away when someone gets too close.

we have had 3 generations of doves who all live on our grounds and have not been exposed to any hostile act by us. Yet whenever anyone gets within 50 feet of them, they totally panic and fly away.

My question is this: If a wild bird at birth was taken to the Galapagos Islands totally sedated or what have you, and taken care of in its childhood, would it still exhibit fear or would fear not manifest itself?

Doves are the least shy of all birds, especially the bird fka the rock dove, but now known as the rock pigeon. Morning doves, which you are probably referring to, are also quit comfortable among people. I can run (or walk, if that is your preference) within a foot of a morning dove without it fleeing, and when it does flee when I get too close it does not emit a real warning shriek, but a more gentle Coo, indicating it was not very intimidated. People feed pigeons and they often eat out of people’s hands. Cardinals are not at all timid, either.

I’ve had birds in the wild come very close to me while I have been birding, once they recognize that I’ve come to look at them. I’ve had a great crested flycatcher put on a show for me, a chickadee fly down to a twig a few feet from me, a ruby-crowned kinglet come down and show me his crown, and a protonotary warbler perch a few feet away from me while we looked at each other.

That said, humans are much bigger than birds and so we are, in general, frightening to them, unless we show that we are not to be feared. Certain species know that some of us shoot at them and flee like a bat out of Hell at the sight of one of us.

The BBC series “Life of Birds” has a scene where David Attenborough is out in the remote wilds of New Zealand, feeding wild birds from his hand, to make the point that these birds have evolved without large mammals around, so don’t have any fear of them.,

In at least some birds - including a Galapagos finch - recognition of predators has been found to be innate.

From this article:

Here’s another study showing at least some innate response to potential predators.

Note that studies have mostly identified innate responses to animal predators, such as hawks, which have been a factor in bird evolution for tens of millions of years. Humans have not been a significant factor in predation on birds in many parts of the world for more than a few tens of thousands of years, so that most species may not yet have evolved innate of recognition of us as predators. The flight reaction to humans in many areas may be largely learned from parents or flock-mates. In more remote areas, where humans rarely go but where other predators are present, a flight reaction to humans could be a generalized response to anything unfamiliar.

I’m reminded of scenes from Nature TV shows showing boobies milling around people trying to build an airport somewhere in the middle of nowhere and at other places where boobies, albatrosses, or similar birds flock around people where people have never been before. It appears that where people are strange animals to birds, or at least some birds, they (the birds) are not afraid but curious, if anything. IIRC, penguins have done similar acts.

As barbitu8 said, I’ve had pigeons walk around less than a foot from me. Sparrows too. I’ve also been pretty close to ducks and geese without them going into panic. So, in some cases, fear of people seems to be learned rather than innate. And when you think about the birds I’ve named above people have raised pigeons, ducks, and geese for food. So those birds have to be at least somewhate domesticatible, which means they can’t be that afraid of people.

I’m not a bird expert, but I’ve read a fair bit on a (possibly) related subject of predator mobbing in bird species, I think it would be reasonable to assume a similar learning mechanism for flight responses

It has been reasonably demonstrated that birds learn to respond to various stimuli from the reactions of other more experienced birds around them.

The experimental design was basically to have two groups of birds, seperated by a wire mesh. One half was shown a stuffed predator, the other half a stuffed duck or other inoffensive creature. Each half could not see the other half’s ‘target’. Once the half that was shown the predator began mobbing it . The other half who could not see the predator begain mobbing the duck, which they previously had ignored when shown it. After a few repetitions of this the birds began mobbing the duck even without the other half being shown the predator.

What was concluded from this is that birds (or rather birds from species that mob predators) learn which other species to mob or not mob from the behaviour of other members of their species. I would imagine that similarly if you were to introduce birds into a new area and leave them without human contact until every bird alive had never seen a human, the remaining birds would not learn to fly away from humans and would be relatively tame.

I had a quick dig on the internet and the paper I seem to remember is probably this one:

Curio, E., U. Ernst & W. Vieth (1978). The adaptive significance of avian mobbing II. Cultural transmission of enemy recognition in blackbirds: Effectiveness and some constraints. Zietschrift für Tierpsychologie, 42:184-202.

I’m not really familiar with finding abstracts or full papers on the web, if anyone can find it I’d appreciate the opportunity to re-read it.

I thank all of you for your output. As I think about it…even though we constantly feed all the doves with seed, other birds…crows? or ravens? and other species eat from the same large seed bowl including one pesky tree squirrel who seems more fearful of the birds than they are of him/her.

The large cawing blackbirds probably taught the doves the fear of human beings. Blue Jays also seem to get very very close to people without demonstrating fear in order to steal the round pellets from our dog bowl in the kitchen.