U of A scientists find that past learning and success play a role in how birds build their nests
When building a nest, past experience raising chicks will influence the choices birds make, according to a new study by scientists from the University of Alberta.
The results show that birds that have successfully raised families adhere to tried-and-true methods when building their nests, while less successful birds will try something new.
“We found that when presenting a choice between a familiar material, coconut fiber, and a material that had not been encountered before, the white thread, and zebra finches that had successfully raised chicks, preferred to stick to the same material that I had used previously.” Explained Andres Camacho Albesar, PhD student at Faculty of Science, that birds that fail to raise chicks build nests with equal quantities of familiar and new materials.
Male Zebra Finch Choice series
The research shows that nest building is a behavior that builds on previous learning and experiences, and sheds new light on the decision-making processes that birds use when creating nests.
“It is very similar to human architecture that is always adapting – from changing patterns to improved building materials – and birds also adapt their nest-building behavior based on learning by trial and error,” added Camacho Albizar, who conducted the study under Lauren’s supervision. Guillette, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology.
The study also showed that all birds took fewer days to complete their second nests compared to the first.
Nests for Zebra Finch
Nests built by previously successful zebra birds (left) and unsuccessful (right). The nest on the left is primarily constructed of coconut fiber, which is a familiar material to birds. The nest on the right is built in a more equal proportion of familiar and new materials, in this case a white chain. (Image: Animal Cognition Research Group)
“This study adds to the small and growing field of research into nest-building behavior that challenges long-standing assumptions about why animals do what they do,” Goylett said.
“While one can find many references in both the scientific and scientific literature indicating that nest building in birds is fully preprogrammed, our work demonstrates that birds learn and modify the materials they place in their nest based on previous breeding experiences with this or similar material. . “
This research was funded by the Canadian Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering.
The study, “If It’s Not Broken Don’t Fix It: Breeding Success Affects Nest Building Decisions” was published in Behavioral processes.