Foraging on café sugar packets by the house sparrow (Passer domesticus): Learning mechanisms, distribution, and human perception
Davy, M. A. (2019). Foraging on café sugar packets by the house sparrow (Passer domesticus): Learning mechanisms, distribution, and human perception (Thesis, Master of Science (Research) (MSc(Research))). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12747
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12747
People in cities interact with house sparrows (Passer domesticus) on a daily basis. Sparrows have previously been observed foraging on sugar packets at a single café in Hamilton City, New Zealand. The aim of this thesis was to explore aspects of this novel foraging innovation by sparrows and to investigate people’s perceptions of sparrows being present at cafés. Sparrows’ preferences for different grain sizes of raw sugar and artificial sweetener were assessed at a single café, which demonstrated that sparrows have a strong preference for raw sugar over artificial sweetener, but no clear preference between granulated raw sugar and powdered raw sugar. Sparrows’ responses to novel sugar packet colours were also investigated at the same café. The sparrows did not start foraging on the novel-coloured sugar packets within 10 experimental sessions, but did interact with the novel sugar packets, which demonstrated neophilia in the sparrows and is an important step in the process of learning. The distribution of sugar packet foraging by sparrows across 174 cafés in Hamilton City was determined, and staff from 15 cafés had observed sparrows taking sugar packets. A short survey was also used to assess the attitudes of café staff members towards the presence of sparrows at their cafés, which showed that café staff had mixed views on the local sparrows. A different survey was used to investigate the attitudes of 249 members of the general public towards sparrows being at cafés. These participants tended to like sparrows being present as part of their café experience. This thesis demonstrates the value of sparrows being present in the urban environment, and is the first study to comprehensively describe sugar packet foraging in sparrows: a fascinating behavioural innovation.
The University of Waikato
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