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How Grey parrots share food to each other?

How Grey parrots share food to each other?

Grry parrots


A new study shows for the first time that African grey parrots cooperate without expecting anything in return, especially when they meet. In addition, these birds would know how to recognize the moment in which the other specimens need help to get food, according to the experiments carried out.

Humans and other great apes are willing to help others, even when they don't know each other. But parrots are not the only animals to do like this. Now, new research, published in the journal Current Biology , shows for the first time that some birds - specifically African grey parrots ( Psittacus erithacus ) - also help each other.

Grey parrots

Parrots and crows are known for having large brains, relative to their body size, and for their ability to solve problems. For this reason, they are sometimes considered 'feathered apes', as the authors of the work explain. However, previous studies have already shown that, despite their impressive social intelligence, crows do not care about helping other crows. But what about parrots?   

We observed that African grey parrots voluntarily and willingly help other parrots to achieve a goal, without immediate reward for themselves," says study author Désirée Brucks , a  veteran researcher at the (Federal Polytechnic School)FPS ( ETH ) in Zurich in Switzerland.

Parrots shared food

To carry out the study, biologists separated grey parrots ( Psittacus erithacus ) and macaws ( Primolius Couloni ) into two different compartments, one next to the other and with a hole between them through which they could communicate. All the parrots in this study were known in advance, having lived together for several years at the Loro Parque Foundation in Tenerife prior to the study.

Grey parrots

One person was in charge of providing several tokens to one of the parrots to return them, one by one, to the researcher in exchange for a dried fruit. Thus, the experts observed how a parrot gave some tokens to the neighboring parrot so that it could also get food. Only African grey parrots were willing to do it.

"It was surprising to see the parrots motivated to help others, even if the other individual was not their friend," says Auguste Von Bayern , a researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology (Germany).

The researchers were surprised that the parrots helped their mates from the start, apparently not expecting a reward in return. Several time, they could feel that they were not receiving compensation for giving the tokens to their peers since they themselves could see how the reward [the nuts] was being given to the parrot that delivered the token. ”They say.

Brucks notes that what is important is that the African grey parrots seemed to understand when their help was needed. When they saw that the other parrot had an opportunity to trade, they passed a token. "Otherwise, they didn't," says Brucks. 

as well, ”says Brucks.

Grey parrots

Furthermore, the experts found that if the first participant transferred more tokens, the second participant would return the favor and lend more tokens as well.

The experienced researchers recommends that the difference between African grey macaws and blue-headed macaws may be related to differences in their social organization in the wild.

Despite these species divergences, the findings show that helper behavior is not unique to humans and great apes, but evolved in birds as well.

It has been observed how widespread aid is among the 393 species of parrots and what factors may have led to their evolution. The experienced researchers tell more studies are required to investigate the underlying mechanisms of cooperative behavior in parrots. For example, how do parrots know when one of their companions needs help? And what motivates them to respond?

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