Tracking Changes of Hidden Food: Spatial Pattern Learning in Two Macaw Species
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Eberhard-Gwinner-Straße, 82319 Seewiesen, Germany
Max-Planck Comparative Cognition Research Station, Loro Parque Fundación, 38400 Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain
Comparative Cognition Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK
Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria
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Academic Editor: Jukka Jokimäki
Received: 30 June 2021 / Revised: 3 August 2021 / Accepted: 4 August 2021 / Published: 9 August 2021
Efficiency in locating available food sources, which vary spatially and temporally, using spatial distribution patterns may differ depending on a species’ diet and habitat specialisation. We hypothesised that more generalist species would acquire spatial information faster than more specialist species, due to being more explorative when changes occur. We tested this hypothesis by presenting a ‘poke box’ to relatively more generalist Great Green Macaws and relatively more specialist Blue-throated Macaws. The ‘poke box’ contained hidden food placed within wells that formed two patterns. The two patterns changed on a mid-week schedule. We found that (1) the two patterns varied in their difficulty; and (2) the more generalist Great Green Macaws took fewer trials to learn the easier pattern and made more mean correct responses in the difficult pattern, than the more specialist Blue-throated Macaws, thus supporting our hypothesis. The Great Green Macaws’ better learning performance may be explained by more exploration and prioritising accuracy over speed. These results suggest how variation in diet and habitat specialisation may relate to a species’ ability to adapt to spatial changes of food resources, which will be useful for the conservation efforts for the two critically endangered species to understand their abilities to cope with environmental change.