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Bird behaviour recorder


The bird behaviour recorder is perhaps better termed a keyboard than a recorder as such. It served as a means of inputting data into other electronic devices that did the actual “recording,” such as a bank of counters or an Esterline-Angus recorder (more on this piece of equipment later). Referred to as the “push-button box” by Dr. Hogan and colleagues, the keyboard is equipped with twenty buttons, each of which represented a specific animal behaviour. The buttons are arranged in two rows of five — in an inverted “V” formation reminiscent of flocks of flying geese — that was likely designed for ergonomic ease of use by the trained observers operating them. Behaviours represented on the keyboard include preening, wing flapping, shrill calling, running, jumping, defecating, and pecking, among others. This particular keyboard was used in several experiments that monitored different collections of chick behaviour, which is perhaps evidenced by the mismatched materials that currently label its buttons.

Accession Number: 2012.psy.112

Alternative Name:

Primary Materials:

Wood and Steel sidings, light buttons, etc.


Embossed labels number each button from 1-20, and list various bird behaviours for each button : “run”, “wing flap”, “escape”, “peck”, “preen”, “sleep”, “shrill”, “run”, “jump”, etc.

Dimensions (cm): 34cm width, 23 cm length, 9.8 cm height


This instrument was used by Dr. Jerry Hogan to study animal behaviour between the 1960’s and 80’s.


Object has some damage/signs of wear and tear:
– missing buttons
– worn sidings
– tape labels yellowed/peeling that cover original embossed labels

Associated Instruments: Esterline-Angus recorder


University of Toronto’s Psychology Department Machine Shop

Date of Manufacture: 1960s


Dept. of Psychology, University of Toronto

Additional Information and References:

Hogan, J. “The Development of a Hunger System in Young Chicks,” Behaviour. 39.2 (1971): 128-201.

Meckien, R. “Jerry Hogan’s Effort to Bring Structure to the Fragmentation of Ethology.” Accessed: 12 November, 2014. <

Historical Notes: