Birds can learn what materials work best to furnish their homes, according to a new study on bird nesting behavior. This cognitively complex activity far exceeds what scientists previously thought -- that birds each had an "innate nest template" that was determined by their genes.
The new research, which appears in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B, tested whether finches could learn to differentiate between materials based on their properties. They found that when given a choice, birds preferred a more "structurally sound" building material -- in this case, a stiffer string compared to a floppy one.
"We found that zebra finches like the stiffer string," lead researcher Dr. Ida Bailey from the University of St. Andrews told the BBC. "It's more efficient for them to build with -- they can build a nest with fewer materials." For reference, here's a little more on zebra finches: