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Birds Choose Love Over Food, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 14, 2015 01:58 PM EST

Birds prefer to opt for love rather than food, according to new research, says HNGN.

In a study, a team of scientists found that great tits preferred their partners over meals, which prevented them from foraging in those areas, according to the University of Oxford  Moreover, birds tend to spend a lot of time with the flock-mates of their partners.

"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. For instance, great tits require a partner to be able to reproduce and raise their chicks," said study leader Josh Firth. "Therefore, even in wild animals, an individual's [behavior] can be governed by aiming to accommodate the needs of those they are socially attached to."

Some automated feeding stations accessible only to some birds were used in the experiment. The scientists documented which birds could consume the food through "radio frequency identification tags" in the feeding stations. The stations were programmed such that the mated pairs could not access the same feeders. The study showed that the birds who were not able to approach the same feeders as their partners spent a lot more time at feeders they were not able to reach, compared to the others who were allowed to feed with their partners.

"Because these birds choose to stay with their partners, they also end up associating with their partners' flock-mates, even if they wouldn't usually associate with these individuals. This shows how the company an individual bird keeps may depend on their partner's preferences as well as their own," Firth said.

"Also, when birds were going to feeding stations they couldn't access because their mate was there, they learned over time to "scrounge" from those feeders by taking advantage of the fact that the feeders remained unlocked for two seconds after [recognizing] a bird's identification tag. 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," he concluded.

The findings were published in a recent edition of the Journal Current Biology.

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