Individuality in problem solving
Individuelles Problemlösen
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Stringpulling of goldfinch Carduelis carduelis and siskin Carduelis spinus

Stringpulling to get hold of hardly accessible food is a behaviour famous since ancient Roman times. Sitting on a perch from which a small food container is suspended by a string the bird has to lift the container, using the bill to pull the string stepwise up and a foot to hold it, and repeat that until it can reach the food.

goldfinch string-pulling       © Seibt & Wickler

We tested 52 goldfinches and 29 siskins (naive birds) and found:
23% of goldfinches and 62% of siskins solved the problem by themselves,
25% of goldfinches and 10% of siskins succeeded after seeing a performing conspecific,
52% of goldfinches and 28% of siskins did not succeed either way.

Hunger did not play a major role in this behaviour. Individuals differed markedly with respect to situational insight, social learning and tendency to perform stringpulling as a playful action.

Seibt, Uta & Wickler, Wolfgang 2006: Individuality in problem solving: string-pulling in two Carduelis species (Aves, Passeriformes). Ethology 112, 493-502

Seibt, Uta 2002: Inter-individual variance in problem-solving of Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis. Zoology 105. Suppl.V., 9 (DZG 95,1)