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Small Birds Prefer Flying In the Company Of Friends, Study Shows

Feb 03, 2016 02:03 PM EST
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Scientists have focused on the sociability of large birds – swans, geese and crows, for example – for some time now, but the study of such traits among smaller birds has been lagging grossly behiind – until now.

Researchers from the Natural Sciences Museum of Barcelona have discovered small Eurasian siskins Carduelis spinus) that prefer to travel long distances in the company of others, forming bonds that last for a number of years. This level of intimacy, researchers say, may favor reproduction and allow birds to easily adjust to new habitats, according to a news release.

"In this study we show how the Eurasian siskin is able to form stable group relationships lasting for periods of several years in addition to travelling in each other's company over distances spanning more than 1,000 kilometer," Juan Carlos Senar, lead author and scientist at the museum, explained in a statement.  

Using data from the European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING) – an institution in charge of banding and tracking birds – researchers were able to examine the data recorded on 42,707 Eurasian siskins between 1907 and 2011. Overall, they found that Eurasian siskins remain together in the same group for up to four years and travel upwards of 1,300 kilometers in either single-sex or mixed-sex groups. This suggests small birds may be just as social as larger individuals.

"What is important is that several groups of individuals were detected travelling together for hundreds of kilometers, and that these groups included both males with females (possible partners), as well as single-sex groups, thus implying that these bonds are not only formed between mating partners, but that they can also form between groups of friends with social ties," Senar added.

Their findings were recently published in the journal Bird Study

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