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Magpies Like Humans Dunk Food Before Eating Finds Research

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The Australian Magpie may by dunking food in water before consumption, a phenomenon that can be carried out by the following generation. This habit was discovered by the scientists at the University of York in collaboration with Western Sydney University and their research might be able to show a lot more about the dietary systems of bird species.

In fact, the habit of dunking is seen in many birds according to Science Insider, however it is seen for the first time in Australian magpies. The adults were seen dunking their food in water and the offspring were copying them. Dunking is an important process for birds but it is yet to be found out why all types of birds don’t do it. “Food dunking has been seen in at least 25 bird species, particularly in birds that have high cognitive abilities,” said Eleanor Drinkwater, PhD student at the University of York’s Department of Biology.

On shedding light on the recent discovery he said, “We presented the wild magpie with a local insect called Mountain Katydid, which is thought to be distasteful due to the toxins it emits. The adult magpie first dragged and beat the insect on the ground before carrying it to a nearby puddle, dunking it and thrashing under water.”

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After this the team saw a younger magpie observing the process and then mimicking it. “Although more research is needed to understand why the bird dunks its food before eating, our initial assumptions are that it responds to the ‘nasty tasting’ chemical defences of the insect, by dunking it in water and making it more palatable,” added Eleanor.

“It was exciting to see that this process was copied by the juvenile bird, suggesting that this behaviour could be socially learnt. More research can now be done to determine how common this behaviour is from adult birds through to its offspring,” he concluded.

Shruti Anand

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