Foraging zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) are public information users rather than conformists

Edwin J.C. Van Leeuwen, Thomas J.H. Morgan, Katharina Riebel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Social learning enables adaptive information acquisition provided that it is not random but selective. To understand species typical decision-making and to trace the evolutionary origins of social learning, the heuristics social learners use need to be identified. Here, we experimentally tested the nature of majority influence in the zebra finch. Subjects simultaneously observed two demonstrator groups differing in relative and absolute numbers (ratios 1: 2/2: 4/3: 3/1: 5) foraging from two novel food sources (black and white feeders). We find that demonstrator groups influenced observers' feeder choices (social learning), but that zebra finches did not copy the majority of individuals. Instead, observers were influenced by the foraging activity (pecks) of the demonstrators and in an anti-conformist fashion. These results indicate that zebra finches are not conformist, but are public information users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20200767
JournalBiology letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 23 2021


  • conformity
  • frequency-dependent learning
  • social learning
  • zebra finches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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