In 1921, birds described as tits (Paridae) were first seen
to open milk bottles in the small, southern English town of
Swaythling. Over the next 25 years, observations of birds
opening milk bottles were reported from hundreds of
other sites all over Great Britain, Ireland, and continental
Europe. The first scientific article on the phenomenon
was published in 1949. A short discussion of bottle open-
ing by birds is a good introduction to the topic of avian
social learning because the questions asked about milk-
bottle opening are indicative of those that have governed
almost all subsequent research on avian social learning:
How did this behavior originate? Did its appearance in
blue tits (Parus caeruleus) have anything to do with the
cleverness or boldness of this species? Was the rapid
spread of bottle-opening over many areas of Great Britain
and Ireland due to cultural transmission? If so, were the
birds imitating one another or was something simpler
going on? Given that eleven species of birds were found
to open bottles, did we see transmission between as well as
Social learning in other species is something I am just starting to look at. I immediately start to speculate and contrast what I learn with other things, in this case, cleverness or boldness contrasted with the timorous and the hardy.
The sight is of noe long duration, only continueing so long as they can keep their eyes steady without twinkling. The hardy therefore fix their look, that they may see the longer, But the timorous see only glances always twinkling at the first sight of the object.
That then raises the question, do we have a history of asking such questions?
Avian Social Learning, L. Lefebvre and N.J. Boogart
A Succint Account of My Lord Talbots relationes in a letter to the Honorable Robert Boyle