Study: Birds learn nest building

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

According to a recent study, birds learn the skill of building nests during their lifetimes, as opposed to instinctively knowing how to build them. The findings were made by researchers from various universities within ScotlandEdinburgh, St Andrews, and Glasgow.

The researchers examined footage of the Southern Masked Weaver recorded by scientists in Botswana, Africa. The species was picked due to its tendency to build numerous grass nests during the breeding season.

During the study, which had Leverhume Trust funding, it was noted that each individual bird has a tendency to vary their technique in nest building, and that some birds built nests from right to left and some vice versa. The researchers also discovered that as birds gain more experience, they drop fewer blades of grass. This indicates that birds learn how to build nests over time, as opposed to the theory of them being aware of how to perform such a task immediately.

Dr. Patrick Walsh of the University of Edinburgh has explained: "If birds built their nests according to a genetic template, you would expect all birds to build their nests the same way each time. However this was not the case. Southern Masked Weaver birds displayed strong variations in their approach, revealing a clear role for experience. Even for birds, practice makes perfect."

The study was published in the journal Behavioural Processes.