Study Shows Barn Owls Share Food With Their Siblings In Exchange For Grooming

As per a new study, barn owls reportedly share their food among their own siblings in exchange for some relaxing grooming.

Barn Owlets Reportedly Share Food Among Siblings But There's One Catch

If the animal kingdom ever held a competition for best sibling relationships, then we’re pretty sure that barn owlets would rank somewhere close to the top or even in among the top three. This is because a new study reveals that elder barn owlets actually share their food among their younger siblings in exchange for some grooming. Now that’s what we call bonding and affection.

According to the study, the same cooperative behavior has been seen in nonhuman adult primates. However, it’s rarely seen among young, if ever.

“I don’t know any other species where you can find it,” Pauline Ducouret, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, said. During the initial discovery, however, Ducouret and her team didn’t know what constituted such behavior among elder owlets. Now, observations and further studies of the nest revealed that the young owls actually do it in exchange for some grooming, as per the report published in the July issue of the American Naturalist.

Usually, barn owls raise six owlets or chicks all at once, with some going up to nine. However, because not all the chicks hatch at the same time, there are elder and younger chicks, with the elder ones usually healthier and larger than their siblings. This is because at this time, the chicks are dependent on their parents for food. But these foods, usually a small rodent like a shrew, can’t be easily split, which means only one chick can be fed at a time. The study showed that when there was enough food to go around, elder siblings usually share their food with the younger ones instead of hoarding it like other species.

“[It’s an] interesting study with a large sample size and technically nice observation techniques. One usually reads about competition among siblings and even siblicide,” Ronald Noë, a retired behavioral ecologist from the Netherlands who was not part of the research, said .

barn-owl-2352059_1920 Barn owl. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)

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