Food preference and copying behaviour in zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata

Lauren Guillette, Kate Morgan, Zachary Jonas Hall, Ida Elizabeth Bailey, Susan Denise Healy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


As a social species zebra finches might be expected to copy the food choices of more experienced conspecifics. This prediction has been tested previously by presenting observers with two demonstrator birds that differ in some way (e.g., sex, familiarity), each feeding on a different colour food source. However, if the observer subsequently exhibits a preference, it is unclear whether it has copied the choice of one demonstrator or avoided the choice of the other. Furthermore, this choice may actually be influenced by pre-existing preferences, a potential bias that is rarely tested. Here we examine whether apparent copying or avoidance can be explained by pre-existing preferences. In Experiment 1, observers had the opportunity to watch a conspecific forage from one of the two differently coloured food hoppers. In Experiment 2, the observers did not have this opportunity. In both experiments observers were subsequently tested for their food hopper preference and all but one preferred one colour over the other. In Experiment 1 some observers showed evidence for copying, while others seemed to avoid the colour preferred by the demonstrator. In Experiment 2 females generally preferred the white hopper. Pre-existing colour preferences could, therefore, explain the apparent copying/avoidance we observed. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Cognition in the wild.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-150
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue numberPart B
Early online date2 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Avoidance
  • Colour preference
  • Copying
  • Food choice
  • Social learning
  • Zebra finch


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