As the list of endangered animal species continues to grow, researchers continue to study these animals as carefully as possible to better understand how they behave in the wild. A recent study conducted on birds could play an important part in helping save Critically Endangered species.
A team of scientists, led by Dr. Rachael Miller of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), studied the behavior of a rare bird called the Bali myna (Leucopsar rothschildi). As the name suggests, the Bali myna is native (and restricted) to the island of Bali - as well as its offshore islands - in Indonesia. The bird is the only endemic vertebrate species of Bali and has unfortunately been close to extinction for at least 18 years. But after closely examining how birds experience neophobia - the fear of new things - there may be a new way to help the species. Researchers hope that new data from their study may help them develop new conservation strategies.
They carried out their research on 22 captive Bali myna birds over a period of six weeks in three different zoological collections in the UK: Waddesdon Manor, Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens, and Birdworld. They discovered that it took birds a longer amount of time to approach food when a new, unfamiliar object was placed near it. The scientists also discovered that age made a big difference: adult birds were more neophobic than the younger individuals and took more time to feel comfortable touching the food near a new object. Not only that, but those who were quicker to touch their food also proved to be quicker at solving problems.
But how does this information help these Critically Endangered birds? According to Dr. Miller, "neophobia can be useful in that it can help birds avoid unfamiliar dangers, but it can also impact their adaptation to new environments, such as through an increased reluctance to approach new foods." She also explained, "An understanding of behavioral flexibility, specifically how species and individuals within that species respond to novelty and approach new problems, is vital for conservation, particularly as the world is becoming increasingly urbanized." Could this information possibly help us increase these creatures' chances of survival? We certainly hope so! Stay tuned to find out more...