Scientists train birds to watch TV programmes to help them avoid poisonous food

Scientists are training birds to watch TV programmes to help them avoid eating toxic food.

Blue tits and great tits were shown videos of other birds eating specially designed food.

They learned what was good to eat and what was potentially poisonous by studying the responses of the eaters.

It is hoped the findings will boost survival rates for both the tits and their potential prey, which includes caterpillars, insects and worms.

Experts believe that watching others can influence their food preferences and also help them to avoid eating dangerous grubs.

Blue tits and great tits forage together in the wild, so have many opportunities to learn from each other.

  • Oldest leftovers ever discovered shed new light on first humans in Australia

  • Scientists discover 'throat of fire' volcano just years away from devastating collapse

Researchers showed each bird a video of another’s response as it ate small pieces of almond flakes glued inside a white paper packet.

But some had been soaked in a bitter-tasting solution, causing them to react.

Dr Rose Thorogood said: “In our previous work using great tits as a model predator, we found if one bird sees another being repulsed by a new type of prey, then both birds learn to avoid it in the future.

“By extending the research we now see that different bird species can learn from each other too.”

The study, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, found blue tits did best by watching their own species, whereas great tits performed just as well from seeing either.

Source: Read Full Article