Animal Cognition

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 11–16 | Cite as

Social learning of food types in zebra finches (Taenopygia guttata) is directed by demonstrator sex and feeding activity

  • M. Katz
  • R. F. Lachlan
Original Article


In this study we examined how social learning of feeding preferences by zebra finches was affected by the identity of different demonstrators. We presented adult zebra finches with two demonstrators, one male and one female, that exhibited different food choices, and we recorded their subsequent preference when given a choice between the two food types. Previously it was found that young zebra finches' patterns of social learning are affected by the sex of the individual demonstrating a feeding behaviour. This result could be explained by the lack of exposure these animals had to the opposite sex, or by their mating status. Therefore, we investigated the social learning preferences of adult mated zebra finches. We found the same pattern of directed social learning of a different type of feeding behaviour (food colour): female zebra finches preferred the colour of food eaten by male demonstrators, whereas male zebra finches showed little evidence of any preference for the colour of food eaten by female demonstrators. Furthermore, we found that female observers' preferences were biased by demonstrators' relative feeding activity: the female demonstrator was only ever preferred if it ate less than its male counterpart.


Social learning Social transmission Zebra finches 



RFL would like to acknowledge the help of the students of the second-year ethology course, 2000 and 2001, who helped with pilot studies of this project, and Hans Dudart for help with animal care. Funding was provided by a Marie Curie Fellowship to RFL. This research complied with the laws of the Netherlands and was carried out with the approval of the Leiden University Animal Welfare Commission (UDEC).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological ScienceUniversity of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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