By: Wendy Langhans
It was the pun that first caught my attention – “Twitter Principles of Social Networking Increase Family Success in Nesting Birds”. OK, so it wasn’t a great pun. But it does illustrate that since the first “tweet” was sent on March 21, 2006, tweeting (among humans, not just birds) has become so popular that now even scientists are making puns about it. I decided to read further.
In this study, researchers from the UK, Switzerland and France studied “63 broods of begging great tits” that were living in nest boxes in the woods surrounding Bern, Switzerland. The birds “were filmed when the nestlings were 10 days old, when both parents feed the young”. They “examined the network of social interaction between the siblings, and then monitored the parents and their offspring to see whether they survived and went on to breed the following year.”
I learned three things from reading the article. Then I thought about how they could be applied to human families:
1) In the article, researchers found that the “mothers prefer to feed hungrier, smaller nestlings whereas fathers choose stronger, larger nestlings to feed.” It reminded me of the stereotypes we hold about human parenting: the nurturing mother and the authoratative father.
2) “…In families where mothers provide most of the food, the young are more ‘gregarious’. They moved around more and interacted more strongly with one another as the hungrier nestlings tried to move closer to their mothers to be fed.” But in nests where the “fathers fed more than mothers, nestlings moved around much less because the more competitive offspring took up the best positions near him.
This reminded me of the sterotype of human families, where children are either competing for attention or where the pecking order has been firmly established. (“Mom always liked you best.”)
3) “Small and medium-sized broods fared better when the mother was the main feeder, whilst larger broods were more successful when the father provided most of the feeds.” Success here was measured by whether or not the offspring survived and were able to breed the next year. I’m not so sure about applying this twitter principle to human families. Survival may not be the best measurement to use, since mere survival is not the sole measure of a “good” life.
So where’s the “twitter principle” in all this?
“Users of Twitter will know that the more interactions they have, the more successful their profile is likely to be…”. This may be true for nesting birds, even if the interactions are measured by physical contact, rather than by tweeting.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, November 7, 14, 21 & 28.
Saturday mornings, October 6 & 20.
Saturday, November 17, 8:00-10:00 AM. “Wild Birds of Autumn” at Towsley Canyon. The birds are busy preparing for winter. Beginning birders are welcome. Binoculars optional. Meet outside at the front gate. Click here for a map and directions.
Saturday, November 24, 3:00-5:00 PM. “Handy Plants of the Chaparral at East & Rice Canyon. Ancient uses of local plants are more popular than ever with today’s interest in health, the environment and holistic medicine. Learn how plants and herbs are used for traditional teas, food, medicine and more. Meet in the parking lot. Click here for a map and directions.
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