How does the mother bird know which baby bird to feed next?
August 16, 2013 7:41 AM Subscribe
Little daughter and I were watching a birds' nest this morning where four little sparrows were getting fed by their mom (or maybe dad?) Each time the mother bird came back, all four sparrows would screech and open their mouths wide and the mother would give one of them some food.
My question is: how does the mother ensure that each chick gets enough food? I can think of at least two theories: 1. The adult bird has enough working memory to know who got the last bit of food, or even who's gone the longest without food; or 2. Hungrier chicks screech louder and the adult bird gives food to the loudest screecher.
Do we know which of these is right, or whether the real answer is something else entirely?
posted by escabeche to science & nature (8 answers total)