Tale Of A Bird And His Buddies

Domestication has significantly changed our household pets. Friendly, obedient, cute behaviors came at the cost of basic survival instincts.

In fact, if released into the “wild” many pets may not survive the everyday rigors of finding food and avoiding predators.

This transformation occurred over many generations and has left our adorable companions at a disadvantage or has it?

It was a warm summer’s day and all was well at the veterinary hospital. Sitting at my desk awaiting my next appointment, I could hear the faint tweeting of a bird in the waiting room. Moments later Lauren, our veterinary technician, notified me that Piko, a 7year-old cockatiel, was ready for his exam.

Entering the exam room I was greeted by Mr. Hino and his little buddy Piko. After exchanging pleasantries, I proceeded to peruse the history jotted down by Lauren. Everything seemed in order and Piko seemed very healthy. The only thing that caught my eye was the large question mark in the appetite column.

“Mr. Hino is there a concern about Piko’s appetite? What do you feed him and how much does he eat?” I inquired.

“Well Doc,” replied Mr. Hino, “I give Piko a mixture of seeds and a high-quality pelleted bird food like you recommended. I also offer him some table food like pasta and vegetables. But to tell you the truth I’m not sure how much he eats. I was a little concerned about Piko’s weight.”

“According to our records Piko is doing just fine,” I said. “In fact, he gained 2 grams since his last visit, which is a significant amount for a little bird.”

“So why aren’t you sure about Piko’s appetite?”

“Well, let me tell you an interesting tale,” smiled Mr. Hino.

“Every morning I fill Piko’s food bowl to the brim with food and set his cage in our outdoor patio so that he can get some fresh air and sunshine. Minutes after I head back into the house Piko lifts his bowl and dumps out his food. Most of it falls on the patio floor. Initially I cleaned up his mess and refilled his food bowl but Piko would just dump it out again so eventually I just let him be. I didn’t see any dropoff in poop production so I assumed he was still eating. After several days I decided to stake out the scene and soon discovered the reason for his messy eating.”

Leaning on the exam table I eagerly awaited the conclusion to Mr. Hino’s bizarre story.

“Within an hour after dumping his food, wild birds would saunter into our patio and help themselves to the smorgasbord that littered the ground. As they came in Piko would whistle in excitement and joined in the meal. Doc, I think Piko likes to share his food with his neighborhood buddies. Cool, huh?”

Indeed it was. Piko was willing to divvy up his bounty with his fellow avian brothers. Though it meant less food for him, he had the pleasure of eating with friends.

Did domestication alter Piko’s perception of survival of the fittest? Would he be just as generous if in the wild and food was scarce? Would Piko’s friends reciprocate and help him out in lean times?