Social learning about construction behaviour via an artefact

Alexis J. Breen, Clémence C. Bonneaud, Susan D. Healy, Lauren Mary Guillette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


One source of public information may be the enduring products of others’ behaviour, such as discarded tools or vacated nests. Here, we examined whether observation of a nest affects the material captive zebra finch males prefer when they construct their first nest. It does: for first-time nest construction, males that viewed only an empty cage preferred the colour of material each initially favoured but those males that had observed a pre-built nest of material of their non-preferred colour lost their material-colour preference altogether. Additionally, half of the males that viewed a nest were tested in an environment (the laboratory) different to that in which they were reared (an outdoor aviary). We had expected the aviary-reared (versus laboratory-reared) males would be more uncertain, and thus more likely to select material for their first nest that matched in colour to the colour of the ‘demonstrated’ nest—but this was not the case. The aviary-reared males did, however, tend to touch first the demonstrated colour of material more than did the laboratory-reared males. Together these results show that both observation of a nest and a change in environment can influence the material choices of novice builders. For naïve animal builders, then, construction artefacts can be information resources for learning about potential construction material.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305–315
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number3
Early online date14 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Animal building
  • Animal construction
  • Construction artefacts
  • Nest construction
  • Material preference
  • Social learning
  • Zebra finch


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