London: Scientists have discovered that some birds use social networking to communicate about new food locations.
Researchers from the Australian National University in Canberra and Oxford University equipped birds with tags to monitor their activity and the built sunflower feeders in four small areas across two sites of woodland near Oxfordshire, known as Higgins Copse and Cammoor, and fitted them with antennae.
Over two months in winter the researchers placed feeders in set locations well-known to the birds, measuring their patterns of associations in the feeding flocks, their "social-network".
They recorded 7790 separate food visits at Higgins Corpse and 11,866 visits at Cammoor, with 81 and 68 different birds.
After this data-collection period a single feeder was installed at a location that was not known for its food resources, so that no bird would have any pre-existing knowledge of the site.
They then recorded who discovered these new feeders, and in what order. They repeated the experiment several times at in each woodland area between December 2010 and January last year, leaving seven days between each trial.
Much like on Facebook, the scientists found that birds “in the know” that were more connected to the social network, were more likely to find new food sites than those on the “periphery”, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The less socially connected birds would just have to go hungry.
“It has parallels with social networking sites like Facebook (or indeed with the friendship networks humans maintain in everyday life) in that having lots of friends from many different groups means that a person potentially has access to more information from lots of diverse sources,” lead researcher from the Australian National University, Lucy Aplin told News Limited.
“In population of birds, maintaining such diverse links increase an individual''s chance of finding food.”
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal.
First Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 19:50