For these wild birds, love is more precious than food

Findings of a new study published in the journal Current Biology are suggesting that certain bird species put love over everything, even food. According to the study, those birds willingly lose access to food for staying close to their partner during the winter months. This kind of determination testifies how priceless stable relations are for some birds.

Oxford University’s Josh Firth, who happens to be the leader of this project, said that the fact that certain birds choose to remain close to their partner instead of leaving them to go in search of food shows how a bird’s short-term decisions, which might seem to be sub-optimal, may actually be taken for getting long-term benefits of maintaining their most important relationships.

During this study, the team under Firth focused on birds known as great tits. However, they are suspecting that the study’s findings might turn out to be applicable for several other bird species that are primarily monogamous, for instance, eagles, cranes, swans, geese, etc. Lovebirds, which are basically small members of the parrot family, also mate for life and spend several days doting on their partner affectionately.

During the study, researchers created automated bird feeding stations within the university premises, to be more precise, at the Wytham Woods site of the Oxford University. They set up the stations in such a manner that their mechanisms could find out which bird could and which couldn’t access food. The stations decided things based on the radio frequency identification tags worn by all birds monitored during this study.

The feeders were rigged by the researchers to ensure that they don’t allow mated pairs to get access to the same stations, which meant that males were only allowed to access stations that were not accessible to the females and vice versa.

The researchers found that on most occasions the birds chose to stay with their partners instead of getting access to the easy meal. When it comes to the humans, hanging around loved ones is not just only about partners, it often also involves dealing with relatives and friends.

Firth said that as these birds prefer staying with their partner, they also associate with their partner’s flock mates in spite of not having any association with those birds individually. According to the Oxford researcher, this shows the kind of company a particular bird keeps might depend on its partner’s preferences.