The great tits will work hard to find a mate,
Putting their partners needs before their own,
And science hoped to quantify this trait,
To see if hunger could their love postpone.
By giving a unique radio tag
Researchers could deny one of them food,
As bird feeders were set up with a lag
To admit one, and their mate to preclude.
And yet the birds would not split from their pair,
The barred great tits would wait without complaint
Outside the feeders, perched in silent prayer
That with their true love they would reacquaint.
And whilst they waited, locked out from the feed,
They knew that soon their hunger would be freed.
This is a Shakespearian sonnet written about a recent piece of research, which found that great tits would sacrifice access to food in order to stay close to their partner. They found this out be fitting radio tags to the birds, with each of the pairing having a different tag, which meant that neither of them were able to both operate the same automated bird feeders. The researchers found that the birds would rather not be allowed access to the bird feeder than desert their mate. They also found that over time the birds learnt that they were able to get access to the bird feeders in the two-second period for which they remained unlocked after activation. In many cases this ‘illegal’ access was enabled by the bird’s partner, suggesting a cooperative strategy.
An audio version of the poem can be heard here.