Female great tits have better memories than males


This video is about a great tit (and a blue tit) in a tree.

From Wildlife Extra:

Female Great Tits proven to have better memories than males

When it comes to remembering where a tasty titbit was left, female Great Tits are well ahead of their male counterparts, reports the Springer journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

This ability might have evolved because the females come second when there’s food to be shared, argue researchers Anders Brodin and Utku Urhan of Lund University in Sweden.

They present one of only a handful of cases in nature in which the female of a bird species has better spatial and learning abilities than the male.

Great Tits (Parus major) are highly intelligent and quick learners. They have interesting and ever-changing ways in which they find food, and even use tools such as conifer needles during foraging.

Unlike most other members of the tit family, Great Tits are not food hoarders. Brodin and Urhan have previously demonstrated that they are able to observe where other species made a stash, and retrieved it up to 24 hours later.

To test if there are any gender differences in this ability, Brodin and Urhan first allowed caged Great Tits to observe Marsh Tits (Poecile palustris) store away food in an indoor aviary.

An hour later, Great Tits of both sexes were released to search for the cached food. The females performed consistently better than males in this memory challenge.

Male Great Tits were able to remember where other birds stored food only in 15 per cent of the cases.

In contrast, the females remembered positions of cached food in 40 per cent of the cases. For Brodin and Urhan, this is a remarkable achievement, as the success rate of the females equals the performance of Marsh Tits and other birds in retrieving their own caches.

The researchers argue that female Great Tits are the more skilled cache pilferers because they find themselves in a male-dominated society in which they are often pushed away from available food sources.

“Whereas the males have a more even and reliable food supply, lower-ranking females have to supplement their food by pilfering the stockpiles of others,” argues Brodin. “Therefore a good memory of where caches are to be found could go a long way to still their hunger.”

“Such ability could also be helpful to the female birds in a broader sense,” elaborates Urhan. “Females could choose to ignore pieces of food they find when a male is nearby. If she returns later when the male is not close, she decreases the risk of getting the food item stolen by the male.”

See also here.

Tits, nuthatches, short-toed treecreepers in the Netherlands: here.

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