Have you ever wondered if you are creating a dependency by putting out birdseed?  I have. Well, worry no more. There’s good news.

Researchers at Oregon State University studied the winter feeding behavior of black-

Black-capped chickadee
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay

capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus).   Chickadees were chosen because they are small but they are frequent feeders.  This is because they have high daily energy requirements.  

To conduct the study, the team used a group of birds whose feathers had been clipped. These were the experimental group while non-clipped birds became a control group.  Then the birds were fitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for tracking purposes.  

Feeders were offered to all the birds. Foraging in a natural environment was also an option. Then feeders were removed but foraging remained available.  Both groups did well.  There were sufficient environmental sources like seeds, berries, and small invertebrates even for the clipped birds.  The clipped birds were not reliant upon the supplemental food.  

It appears that feeders were just another dining option!

To read more about the study, here is the press release:  https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/don’t-worry-birds-won’t-become-dependent-you-feeding-them-osu-study-suggests

And here is the published study:  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jav.02782



In other news, a team of researchers in Wisconsin quantified the reduction of deer–vehicle collisions (DVCs) as a result of restoring the local wolf population.  In Wisconsin, where the study occurred, the wolves’ presence reduced DVCs by an incredible 24%.  Interestingly, the reduction is mostly due to the deers’ behavioral change in response to wolves rather than through a deer population decline from wolf predation. 

This should give wolf detractors something to think about…the upside may be worth the risks.

To read more about their research, check out the PNAS article here:  https://www.pnas.org/content/118/22/e2023251118


Finally, there is a report about how an elephants’ personality plays a role in their problem-solving abilities and approaches.  I’m pretty sure I saw one of the participating elephants solving a puzzle on the television show, The Zoo, on Animal Planet.  The research team worked with 15 Asian elephants and three African savanna elephants at the San Diego Zoo, the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, and the Oklahoma City Zoo.

Asian Elephant
Image by Marcel Langthim from Pixabay

The elephants solved puzzles in exchange for a treat (a marshmallow, I believe).  They were asked to solve the problem three times.  Most solved them faster at each turn. The elephants also displayed a variety of measurable traits such as level of activity, affection, aggressiveness, defiance, excitability, mischievousness, shyness, and sociability.  Each of these may reflect components of their personality. 

The findings showed that traits such as aggressiveness and activity were important predictors of their overall problem-solving ability.  On the other hand, the personality traits did not predict the elephant’s ability to learn and subsequently solve the problems or do them faster. 

More fun puzzles and more treats will be needed to get to these answers. Now, don’t you think maybe the elephants are playing the researchers?  My dear departed dog would have gone to any length to get another treat.  Just saying. 

You can read more about the study here:  http://www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/2021/06/uw-researchers-elephants-solve-problems-with-personality.html

And you can see a video here, if you haven’t found the episode on Animal Planet.  This one features Chandra, the elephant mastering a water-based problem:  https://youtu.be/Pq882T6KMQ0

@lisapbarrett  @AnimalSmarts    @UWyonews

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