Allopreening in birds associated with stable bonds

Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that mutual preening in birds – allopreening – is more commonly found in species that display strong pair bonds.  This behaviour was found specifically in species where the breeding parents worked closely to rear their offspring.

This finding supports the idea that allopreening is important in maintaining close pair bonds in birds, something which has also been argued for allogrooming in primates.

Dr Jonathan Green, of the University’s Zoology Department, collaborated with colleagues at the University of Sheffield to study this behaviour across over 500 species of bird.

"Breeding partners in many bird species regularly preen one another, but we know little about why they do this, or why this 'mutual' preening is common in some species but absent in others,” said Dr Green. 

“Our study reveals that mutual preening occurs most commonly in species where breeding partners stay together for multiple breeding seasons and work closely together to rear offspring. These findings suggest that mutual preening in birds is important for maintaining strong and stable pair bonds."

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