Heavy birds think they are the king in their flock


January 15, 2024

A fascinating study in birds popped up on my radar today which made me immediately think about the social interactions between humans. Researchers from the UK studied the social hierarchy in pigeons and how the birds perceive their status among peers. Fresh findings published in the journal Biology Letters show a very interesting behavioral change depending on the body weight.

Turns out, heavier birds rank higher in their flocks and have easier access to food and mates. On the other hand, lighter birds kind of scrape the bottom of the barrel and just stay content with whatever they can get. Sad, but life ain’t fair.

In a series of ingenious experiments, scientists gave the light birds tiny backpacks to make them feel heavier and wanted to see how their behavior changes. Immediately after beefing-up, these birds started acting more aggressively and rose up in the dominance hierarchy. And guess which sex had this effect only… The males, of course. 😃

When the researchers took the weights off, the flock went back to its old social structure, the lighter birds being the low-ranking members again. So, two things we take away from this:

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