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End of lifelong mystery: it took scientists 27 years to figure out why parrots kill and adopt each other's chicks

Maria ShevchukNews
Male or female birds can kill the chicks of a rival, and also adopt them if necessary. Source: eBirds

Parrots can kill the chicks of their relatives or, on the contrary, take care of them if they have lost their breadwinner. Scientists observed the birds from 1988 to 2015 to find out the reason for this mysterious behavior.

Scientists from the University of California and the University of Texas (USA) studied the behavior of birds in South America using the example of the Pacific parrotlet species. The results of the research were published in PNAS.

Biologists found dead chicks in nests and at first could not understand what was going on. But later they saw that adult parrots fly into other people's nests, and when they fly out, they have traces of blood on their beaks.

End of lifelong mystery: it took scientists 27 years to figure out why parrots kill and adopt each other's chicks

Biologists observed 2742 parrot nests made with PVC pipes for 27 years. In 256 nests, parrots killed or injured chicks and destroyed eggs. In most cases, the killing was done by a couple, who then took over the nest.

"It's not that parrots are innate killers, but the instinct to kill is quite powerful," Karl Berg, one of the authors of the article, says.

According to scientists, this is due to the struggle for resources. The violent behavior of adult parrots is especially noticeable during the period of population growth.

If one of the parents of a young parrot dies, the new partner of the widowed bird can either kill the baby or adopt it. Scientists say this quality is aimed at preserving the gene pool. It has also been noticed that males who have adopted other people's babies start breeding with the mother of their "wards" much earlier.

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