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Is use of a novel food source by young canaries (Serinus canarius) influenced by the sex and familiarity of the adult demonstrator?

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The influence of experienced males or females on the use of a novel food (canary seed) by juvenile canaries was studied. The tutors were either the parents, which reared the juvenile or unknown adults. In the Experiment 1, the various tutors and the juvenile could see each other through a transparent wall. We tested (i) in the young: the use of seed, the attraction towards adults and the reduction of fear, if any, brought about by the presence of the tutor, (ii) in the adults: feeding activity. Manipulation of seeds by juveniles was greater in the presence of their father than in the presence of unknown males and a stronger effect of local enhancement was observed. In the presence of familiar or unfamiliar females, manipulation of seeds was always strongly enhanced. Juveniles ingested more seeds in the presence of familiar birds of either sex than in the presence of unfamiliar birds. The study of attraction towards the adults revealed that the young could distinguish familiar from unfamiliar adults. Fear was reduced more strongly in the presence of females and familiar birds. Adult females showed high feeding activity, which was not influenced by the presence of a juvenile whether familiar or not. Among males, the consumption of seed was only high in the presence of a familiar juvenile. Detailed analysis showed that the use of seed by the juveniles was favoured by the reduction of fear brought about by the presence of the father and of females. The feeding activity of adult females significantly facilitated the use of novel food by the young. No significant effect of the presence or the activity of an unfamiliar adult male was found. Experiment 2 showed that a familiar male adult and a juvenile exerted a reciprocal influence on each other. Observation of the father was required for facilitation of seed use by juveniles. The father consumed seed whether it could see the juvenile or not but, seeing the juvenile increased seed intake significantly. In the canary, the male looks after the young, which he feeds after fledging. His behaviour favours the use of new food by the young and hence the survival of his offspring.

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