Birds of a feather always flock together -- even when it means having to give up easy access to food, new research has found.
A new study has found that during the winter months, birds will often sacrifice access to food in order to stay close to their mates.
Birds often mate for life, and these new findings indicate it goes even farther than that, reaching almost human levels of attachment, according to a Discovery report. The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.
Josh Firth, the leader of the project who hails from Oxford University, said in a statement that “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.”
The research team focused on a common species called great tits, but they believe their conclusions could include most bird species that are known to be monogamous, including geese, eagles, and many others.
The researchers studied the birds using automated bird feeding stations at a nearby site, which had mechanisms that prevented access to food for some individuals based on the radio frequency emitted from an identification tag they had been outfitted with. They made it so that mated pairs of birds weren’t able to access the same feeding stations, so in order to eat, the bird would have to separate from their partner and find another feeding station.
But instead of doing that, the birds stuck to their mates’ sides, eschewing a meal somewhere else.
There was also a social aspect to it as well, much like how humans have to deal with friends and relatives. The birds must associate with other members of their partners’ flock.
The birds proved to be pretty smart, ultimately determining that the feeders would be unlocked for two seconds after the ID tag was recognized, so the bird pairs worked out a solution on their own.