Media releaseFrom: The Royal Society
Pecking order - Could feeding the pigeons send their delicate social dynamics askew? Pigeon status is stable and dominated by heavier birds. This UK study found that attaching artificial weights to lighter, subordinate flock members, caused these males to become more aggressive and move up the dominance rankings.
Artificial mass loading disrupts stable social order in pigeon dominance hierarchies
Dominance hierarchies can be found in animal groups, where high-ranking individuals have better access to resources such as food and mates. We found that heavy birds dominated pigeon society, and that these the hierarchy was persistence for 3 years, with those heavier birds always top of the rankings. However, if we took the lightweight individuals from the bottom of the hierarchy and artificially made them heavier, they became from aggressive and shot up the dominance rankings. It’s possible the added mass made them feel in better physiological condition, and more willing, therefore, to pick a fight.