September 27, 2011
Nest Building A Learned Behavior
According to research published in the journal Behavioral Processes on September 26, 2011, birds may build better nests with each consecutive one.
According to the Daily Mail Online, Scientists studied the building habits of the male Southern Masked Weaver, in Botswana, which build grass nests. The birds were found to vary their technique from nest to nest. The birds were able to refine their construction and make fewer mistakes as the months went past. Some birds were found to build their nests from right to left, while others built left to right.
Dr. Patrick Walsh of the University of Edinburgh´s School of Biological Sciences said,” If birds built their nests according to a genetic template, you would expect all birds to build their nests the same way each time. However this was not the case.” The BBC notes, as birds gained more experience, they dropped grass blades less often.
But, Dr. Walsh, who participated in the study, cautions that this behavior may not apply to all birds. He says, “For example the nests of gulls are just slight depressions scrapped into the ground or sand. So there may be less scope for experience to play a role in those cases. However, it does definitely challenge the assumption that all nests built by birds are carried out without learning playing a role.”
The colorful African bird was chosen because of their highly complex nests, possibly a sign of intelligence. These birds build dozens of nests during the breeding season, allowing the researchers to monitor differences in nests built by the same bird.
According to the BBC Dr. Walsh continues, “If birds built their nests according to a genetic template, you would expect all birds to build their nests the same way each time. However this was not the case.”
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