Sparrows, like humans, are a monogamous species that prefer to live with one partner for their entire life. Of course, they’re also not known for being the most faithful of species in the world, and so they end up cheating on their partners for another bird.
The only problem is, like every relationship where this happens, the other partner almost always finds out, and things get pretty nasty afterwards.
According to a study performed by Imperial College London, male sparrows will retaliate to a female partner that they think was unfaithful by providing less food to the nest. This, of course, affects the health and well-being of the female, as well as any babies that are in the nest with them.
The details, which talk about the scientific observations of 200 male sparrows and 194 female sparrows, are published in the journal American Naturalist.
“Males changed their behavior based on their partner. When they switched from a faithful partner to one prone to infidelity, they provided less food for their brood,” said lead researcher Dr Julia Schroeder.
Consider it an act of rejection – after the man of the house finds out that the woman isn’t faithful to him, he’s just going to cut off her resources and stop making life so easy for her.
The behavior is much like that of how humans would react in a similar situation, apart from the violence that would likely occur in a human relationship, which is very interesting to observe in another species.
It’s believed that female sparrows will act unfaithfully when they believe they’ve found a fitter and more genetically-adequate specimen to mate with that is more attentive to her offspring, but male sparrows have a different motive because they will act unfaithfully when their main goal is to reproduce as many times as possible.
It turns out that the most common reason female sparrows cheat is because the father simply doesn’t pull his own weight around the nest and the female gets tired of it and goes off looking for better alternatives.
The researchers even attempted to switch chicks from one nest to another to see whether or not the male was able to tell if the chicks weren’t his or not, and it seemed that the males would continue to feed the younglings so long as he believed his female partner was faithful, suggesting that unfaithful hints probably come from the female’s behavior, and not from the presence of stranger chicks themselves.
“If chicks were switched into a nest where the female was faithful, then the father at that nest kept up his hard work providing for the chicks, suggesting they have no mechanism, such as smell, to determine which chicks are theirs,” said Dr Schroeder.
“Instead, the males may use cues from the female’s behaviour during her fertile period – for example how long she spends away from the nest.”
So what do you know, humans aren’t the only creatures in the world that have feelings of jealousy or anger towards cheating partners, and they certainly aren’t the only creatures in the world that retaliate because of it.
Source: Imperial College London via The Telegraph