Numerical Competence in Great tits (Parus major) (#199)
In a strict sense, the abilities to count and to understand abstract numbers are unique human abilities. However, quantity discrimination studies conducted during the last decades have shown that also non-human animals in various taxa, from ants to birds and chimpanzees, have basic number related skills. In nature, the ability to perceive quantities and to understand the difference between different quantities can be advantageous in many situations. The great tit is a generalist forager that is known as an innovative species. Some recent studies have shown that it is cognitively advanced compared to many other passerines. We tested 10 great tits for their numerical competence under laboratory conditions. The birds were presented two sets of food items (meal worms) that differed in numbers and had to choose between these. The meal worms were presented as discrete units (in separate small petri dishes). This occurred in a cage that was designed so that the birds could access only one of these two sets of food items. The birds were considered to be successful if they selected the set of food items with the higher quantity. In total, the birds were offered 15 different pairs of quantities with five different ratios. Our results indicate that great tits posses an ability to distinguish the difference between quantities regardless of the ratio, if number of items in one set do not exceed four. Moreover, for quantities that are higher than four, the birds’ ability to make the correct choice between two different quantities improves as the ratio between quantities is increased.