Monday, October 27, 2008

Brave and Selfless Leader or Hen-Pecked Wimp? OR???

Here is a description of a typical behavior of Sutcliffe at feeding time.  I am interested in your interpretation of this;

When a treat or the AM food is placed in the cage, the females do not approach it right away.  Sutcliffe goes first and eats some of the treat.  Soon thereafter, one of the females (Boo or Mary ann, but usually, Mary ann) will come over to where he is, and he'll leave and go to the next feeding spot.  Then Boo will go to that spot, and Sutcliffe will leave.  There is usually a third spot to eat, but Sutcliffe does not go there. Rather, he sits elsewhere and sings and chirps while the other two eat.  Later, when they are finished, he will go and eat some of the treats at any of the three places.
Is he being a wimp, chased away from getting a treat by his wife and then his daughter, although he is brave and tame enough, or foolhardy enough, to go first?  
Or is he checking the food for safety, then advertising "good food here" to the flock by singing, while the females feed, being brave, caring, and paternal towards his flock.
Or maybe, there is another idea which we haven't thought about yet?
And finally, what would be good experiments to test this hypotheses?
What do you think?

1 comment:

NaCly dog said...

My theory:

This is Sutcliffe acting as the flock leader. He checks out possibly tainted food, takes the first risk, then guards the rest from possible predators.
This behavior is consistent with dimorphism and a social hierarchy. I've seen flocks of geese show the same behavior.
Sutcliffe would be a good leader for a small feral flock.

Thanks for the update.

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple
Sutcliffe and Maryann in early 2007