Food Or Love? Birds Choose Love

A new study shows that given the choice between foraging apart or staying with their mates, birds choose their mates.

Great tits bird 
?Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Given a choice, a mated pair of birds will choose love over food. That? according to a new researched published in Current Biology. The study, called “Experimental Evidence that Social Relationships Determine Individual Foraging Behavior,?showed that birds, specifically great tit birds, would choose to stay wit their mates rather than forage apart.

According to a University of Oxford press release:

“The research, which was carried out at Oxford University’s Wytham Woods site to the west of Oxford, involved the use of automated feeding stations with the ability to decide which individual birds could and could not access the food inside. Birds were allowed access based on radio frequency identification tags that were linked to the feeding stations. 

In the experiment, mated pairs of birds were unable to access the same feeding stations as each other, meaning the male could only access the feeding stations that the female could not, and vice versa.

The researchers found that the birds randomly selected not to be allowed access to the same feeding stations as their partner spent significantly more time at feeders they could not access than birds that were allowed to feed together.?lt;/span> 

“The choice to stay close to their partner over accessing food demonstrates how an individual bird’s decisions in the short term, which might appear sub-optimal, can actually be shaped around gaining the long-term benefits of maintaining their key relationships,” said Josh Firth, the study’s lead researcher, in the Oxford press release.

Choosing to stay with their mates also meant the birds stayed with their mate’s flock. This suggests that who a bird chooses to spend time with can depend on their mate’s choices too.

Also, the birds learned how to take advantage of the feeding system. “… when birds were going to feeding stations … couldn’t access because their mate was there, they learned over time to ‘scrounge”‘ from those feeders by taking advantage of the fact the feeders remained unlocked for two seconds after recognizing a bird’s identification tag, said Firth, Interestingly, a relatively large amount of this scrounging was enabled by the bird’s own partner unlocking the feeding station, suggesting it may be a cooperative strategy.”

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