Mechanisms of copying behaviour in zebra finches

L.M. Guillette, S.D. Healy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


When an individual is faced with choosing between unfamiliar food options, it may benefit initially by choosing the option chosen by other animals so avoiding potentially poisonous food. It is not clear which cues the naïve forager learns from the demonstrator for choosing between food options. To determine firstly which birds (zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata) would copy a demonstrator's choice, in Experiment 1 we presented each observer with a demonstrator feeding from one of two differently coloured feeders and then tested the observer's feeder colour preference. Of the same-sex/mixed-sex demonstrator-observer pairs tested only females copied male demonstrators. In Experiment 2, birds did not prefer either feeder colour in the absence of demonstrators confirming the social learning effect observed in Experiment 1. In Experiment 3, copying females fed significantly more at the feeder of the demonstrated colour, rather than at the location of the demonstrated feeder. These data point not just to the identity of the individual to be copied but also to the kind of information learned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-82
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Processes
Early online date30 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Colour preference
  • Copying
  • Food choice
  • Local enhancement
  • Social learning
  • Stimulus enhancement
  • Zebra finch


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