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Stick together like birds of a feather

Great TitWe here at the blog love a story about animal behaviour that can also be linked to human behaviour. Call us soppy. Actually it’s not soppy, we figure that the more we can highlight community behaviour in animals, the harder it is to not feel empathy with them, therefore the more likely non-animal lovers are to treat animals better.  So we loved this story on the BBC today about how shy male birds make stronger friendships. You know the type, a shy boy who doesn’t make friends easily but has 2 or 3 people that he has an incredibly deep connection with, well that boy is the bird in this study. Not only do shy male birds tend to have fewer friends, but they make friends with other shy birds which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense; if you enjoy going on adventures you’re going to make friends with people who are the same, likewise if you prefer a quiet life. The authors also state that bolder males tend to be more aggressive, again, this makes perfect sense, you’re more likely to fight when you have self confidence and believe you can win (although we would like to point out that birds are allowed to fight, you are not).

This story reminded us of another story about bird behaviour earlier in the summer, where birds were seen to exhibit the “loser effect”, i.e. after losing a fight, a bird became more likely to lose the next fight, and so on.  I find this fascinating as self belief has long been known to affect human behaviour – those who believe in themselves more will strive for more and take more opportunities than those with low self esteem and are therefore likely to become more successful not necessarily because of ability, but because of this self belief. It’s not all bad news for our feathered friends though, this effect only lasts a few hours for them. The study also found that birds from smaller families had more “interactions” with the opposite gender, whereas birds from larger broods with both males and females had less interactions but those interactions were more deeply felt, and that negative experiences with relationships during adolescence shaped the success of future relationships. Fascinating stuff.

In an earlier blog post, we reported on how elephants feel safer in protected areas of the Serengeti National Park, again displaying behaviour which may be thought of as being quite human.  It’s also widely reported that elephants mourn their dead, much as humans do.

With all our technology it’s so easy to think of ourselves as special, but really, when you look closely, we’re not so different after all.



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Blog post by Linda Seward of Seward Technical Writing, providers of original science content.

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