African gray parrots became the first altruist birds identified in nature

Cooperation and mutual assistance are inherent in many species of animals, but disinterested acts are very rare. Apart from humans, altruistic behavior is characteristic only of bonobos and orangutans. However, recent research at the University of Texas has revealed another unexpected candidate: African gray parrots.

There are many intelligent, developed species among birds, but the same raven will never sacrifice its prey for the sake of a relative. To attack someone together is one thing, but when dividing the booty, everyone defends their interests. With parrots, things were the same, even with the most intelligent blue-eyed macaws, until African gray parrots were introduced in the experiment.

Scientists used a simple tactic - first, the birds were trained to exchange a token ring for a treat, and then they put two parrots in two connected cages, which were given a different number of tokens. The birds saw and heard each other, and they also had a special window for exchanging tokens. And already on the first try, 8 out of 10 times, when a neighbor ran out of tokens for exchange, another parrot himself offered him his extra ones!

African gray parrots quickly established a connection between issuing tokens, food and resource allocation, so in the following experiments they began to build a balancing model. When one parrot “sat on the rocks” for several moves and fed on the help of a neighbor, and then he got a lot of tokens, he tried to pay off his “debt”. It happened that a parrot gave his last token to a neighbor, if he had not received anything for several moves - he disinterestedly helped a relative, showing true altruism.