Wild Birds Prepared To Go Hungry To Stay Close To Their Mate


Wild birds make great life partners: not only do they remain devoted to their mates for the rest of their lives, they will also sacrifice ease of acquiring food if it would mean staying close to their significant other.

This is what a team of researchers led by Josh Firth from Oxford University observed from specific birds during their study.

The researchers focused on a specific species of birds known as great tits, but they believe that these findings can also apply to other species of birds, especially those who are already known for their devotion towards their chosen mates.

Monogamous species of birds who pair up with one specific bird until death do they part include geese, cranes, swans, eagles and parrots like the famous lovebirds.

"The choice to stay close to their partner over accessing food demonstrates how an individual bird's decisions... can actually be shaped around gaining the long-term benefits of maintaining...relationships," Firth said.

For their study, the research team tested the birds' loyalties to their mates by setting up automated bird feeding stations at the test site that only feeds select birds with a specific radio frequency based on their identification tags. The machines were rigged so that one of the two mated birds will not be able to feed off the same machine as their partner.

Results showed that the birds would rather remain with their mates than to abandon them in favor of easier access to their meals.

In fact, smarter couples figured out how to trick the feeding machine's system. Researchers found out that some of the birds were able to determine that the feeding machine will remain unlocked for a few seconds after recognizing a bird with the right radio frequency tag.

Knowing this, one of the birds will use its tag to unlock the feeding machine while its partner will eat as much as it could within the two second window the machine was unlocked.

"These results demonstrate the importance of social relationships for the expression, and consequences, of individual behavior," Firth and his colleagues wrote in their study. The researchers added that because of the importance placed on social ties, birds also end associating with their partners' flock mates and that birds can work together to solve whatever problems they may encounter.

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