Published: 20 July 2022 at 08:26
Problem solving and neophobia tests can help prior to release into the wild
Findings from a new study investigating how birds experience neophobia, which is the fear of new things, could play a vital role in helping to save Critically Endangered species.
The research, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, studied the behaviour of a rare bird called the Bali myna (Leucopsar rothschildi), of which there are fewer than 50 living in the wild.
Led by Dr Rachael Miller of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), alongside colleagues from Cambridge University and the National University of Singapore, the study examined how 22 captive Bali myna birds responded to the presence of new objects and types of food, in addition to how well they tackled simple problem-solving tasks.
The researchers believe that gathering this type of behavioural data can aid in new conservation strategies. Behavioural flexibility is crucial for an individual’s adaptability and survival, and so pre-release training and identifying specific birds for release could help with the successful reintroduction of endangered species, such as the Bali myna, into the wild.
The study was carried out over a six-week period at three UK zoological collections – Waddesdon Manor (National Trust/ Rothschild Foundation), Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens, and Birdworld – and the researchers found overall that birds took longer to touch familiar food when a novel item was present.
Age was a key factor in the behaviour displayed, with adult birds proving to be more neophobic than juveniles. The researchers also discovered that the birds that quickly touched familiar food that was placed beside a new object were also the quickest to solve problem-solving tasks.
This new study is part of a larger project led by Dr Miller, Lecturer in Animal Behaviour at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), aiming to combine avian cognition and behaviour research with conservation, to help threatened species. Dr Miller said:
The open access study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, will be available at https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.211781 ARU also has a PhD opportunity to participate in this project. For further details, visit https://aru.ac.uk/science-and-engineering/research/research-project-opportunities/biology