Chivalrous birds: Male zebra finches avoid copying their mate’s foraging location
Many factors, including sex, status, and familiarity, are known to influence patterns of social learning. Given the importance of pair bonds in socially monogamous animals, we predicted that these intimate relationships would promote social information use, and tested this hypothesis experimentally in paired and unpaired zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Paired birds exhibited high levels of social learning, but not all individuals used social information the same way. Paired females copied foraging choices of their mates while paired males actively avoided feeders used by their mates. Our findings suggest that males avoid depriving their mates of critical food resources during egg laying, when females have elevated resource requirements. We tested this hypothesis in a second experiment where paired birds were allowed to forage simultaneously on a highly valued resource and again observed males defer feeding opportunities to their mates. Males seemingly use social information ‘chivalrously’ to avoid competing with their mate rather than directly benefiting themselves.