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Wild Birds and their relationships with Neighbours

We all treasure good neighbours and it would appear that wild birds feel the same way. Scientists have discovered that birds have issues with bad neighbours too and prefer to live close to family and friends!

Research in the Seychelles

Researchers from the University of East Anglia recently studied a wild population of Seychelles warblers to check out their relationships with their neighbours. The birds are endemic to the Seychelles and the aim was to discover if the warblers which enjoyed a peaceful relationship with their neighbours enjoyed better health as a result.

The study revealed that the birds did sometimes fight with their neighbours but not if they were relatives or birds which has been known to them for a long period of time. Warblers evidently learn to live with each other!

Stress and Health in Birds

It soon emerged that good relationships with neighbours led to improved health and longer lives. You might well be able to draw the same conclusion about people. Stress does nothing to enhance human health either. Those who instinctively avoid confrontation have an inherent understanding of self-preservation.

Like people, birds have their designated home which they must defend against intruders. Good neighbours mean less work and reduced stress. When the telomeres of the birds were examined, it was clear that the good relationships boosted the bird’s health. Telomeres are the sections of DNA which erode faster during periods of stress or poor health. Longer telomeres therefore
indicate good health.

New Insights into Animal Behaviour

The researchers hope that their findings will provide important new information about how conflict over space and resources can be resolved in the animal kingdom. The analysis of the birds behaviour and condition revealed that individuals with more relatives or familiar neighbours in their neighbourhood were in better condition and showed less telomere loss. But when new or unrelated neighbours moved close by, territory owners lost condition and suffered more telomere shortening.

So, it transpires that birds need good neighbours just like we do. Not so much because they want a more peaceful life but for improved health and longevity.


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