A recent study of Great Tits may lend commentary to America’s over-subscription to government entitlements.
In Britain, the world capital of amateur ornithology roughly half of households put food out for their feathered friends, and it is estimated that around 30m of the country’s birds are given nourishment this way every year. Other places are somewhat less generous, but the general principle holds. Encouraging birds is good, and what better way to encourage them than to feed them?
Dr Amrhein’s team conducted their study in the suburbs of Oslo, in the spring of 2007. The objects of their attention were 28 male great tits, each of which was observed at dawn three times, with 16-17 days between the observations.
The purpose of the study: to see if leaving food out for birds is beneficial or detrimental.
Dr Amrhein expected that males who were being given extra food would perform better during the dawn chorus than those that were not.
The “Dawn Chorus” being the primary element of the males’ mating ritual.
To his surprise, he discovered exactly the opposite. Those who received food supplements got lazy. He and his colleagues report in Animal Behaviour that 36% of the males whose feeders were filled started singing only after the sun had already come up. Among the birds without this extra food, that happened only 10% of the time. Moreover, the effect was sustained after feeders were removed, for it was still apparent at the time of the third observation.
Turns out gratuitous entitlements make birds lazy. Do you suppose it has the same effect on Americans?