Friendly Birdie

You’ve got a friend in… a parrot?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We all need a helping hand every now and then! Can birds lend a helping…beak?

Désirée Brucks from the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology says, yes! She tested two types of parrots. The social, African grey parrots and the stand-offish blue-headed macaw.

In the lab, Brucks paired the same type of birds together. Each pair was separated by a clear divider with access to Brucks or to their neighbor. One bird in each set received a pile of tokens. If a bird gave a token to a human – they got a treat! But would the token-rich birdie share the wealth?

Most of the time, the grey parrots shared their tokens! They made sure their neighbor got a treat with no reward for themselves. Blue-headed macaws, on the other hand? They rarely shared.

Grey parrots might use kindness as a way to advertise to prospective mates! Either way, kindness appears to have evolved in certain species over time.

Guess I’ll have to ask my African grey parrot friend for help next time Sandra wants a cracker!