Social learning in great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus): A preliminary study.


Laboratory for the Study of Cognitive Mechanisms, University of Lyon, 69500, Bron, Rhône-Alpes, France. [Email]


Great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) exhibit life-history parameters and ecological traits thought to be associated with social learning, and advanced cognitive processing more generally. In this study we investigated whether this species can acquire novel behavior socially in a foraging context. Birds from the test group watched a trained conspecific opening an opaque box containing a food reward by using its beak, whereas the control group had no demonstrator but saw the box for an equivalent time span. Individuals from both groups were subsequently allowed access to the box. Subjects of the test group performed significantly better than the control group. This is the first experimental evidence of social learning in a cooperatively hunting bird. Further studies are needed in order to shed light on the factors favoring the evolution of this capacity, by testing different pelican species that vary in their ecology.


Great white pelican,Pelecanus onocrotalus,Social enhancement,Social foraging,Social learning,

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