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Male bird learns to apeal to his partner – brings just the kind of food she desires

Posted April 23, 2017

For some reason, men are often compared to pigs. However, a research done by scientists from Victoria University of Wellington reveals that men actually have something in common with wild birds. Scientists found that male birds read the behaviour of their female partners to cater to their food desires. It looks like people did not invent this trick.

Male North Island robins somehow read behaviour of their partners to know what they desire to eat. Image credit: Tony Wills via Wikimedia

“Happy wife – happy life” says a famous mantra, repeated through generations. You see your woman unhappy and you know she needs something delicious to cheer her up. Apparently, birds do that too. Scientists observed a group of North Island robins based at Zealandia. They wanted to see if males pay attention to what food do their partners desire during the reproduction period. Female birds have food preferences, but are they able to communicate them to their partners?

And, surprisingly, robins do cater to their mates’ desires. A male robin read behaviour of a female to determine what she wants to eat. Robins in this regard are perfect for this study because they are monogamous and share food. Somehow females manage to communicate their desires through behaviour and males read it and comply with it by catering the food that their partners want. This is very interesting and scientists are wondering if such behaviour may be typical to some other species as well.

In many other species males supply food for their partners, in order to help them save energy, needed for reproduction. Male’s ability to do so determines success of the pair. But how did scientists found out about this behaviour in robins?

At first, scientists fed females either meal worms or wax worms and then allowed them to choose what they prefer. Scientists found that birds like eating different typed of warms and insects – if they ate one before, now they want to eat a different one. Based on this researchers checked if males would supply the food that females are likely to desire – one that they had not just eaten. And results were surprising.

Dr Rachael Shaw, author of the study, said: “Regardless of whether or not he had seen what his mate ate first, the male still made the appropriate choices. This suggests that the female is likely to be displaying her current desire in her behaviour, and that the male is using these cues to identify the food that she wants”.

This is a fairly complex behaviour to little birds. A male bird seems to care what his partner wants to eat and provides that specific kind of food for her. It almost looks like love, but really, it is just how species learn to survive.


Source: Victoria University of Wellington

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