Junk food fight: Science tests how birds compete for Cheetos

This undated photo provided by researcher Rhea Esposito on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016 shows a crow holding a cheese flavored snack in Jackson Hole, Wyo., during an experiment to see how two types of smart birds_ smaller magpies and bigger crows _ compete for food. Traditional bait food, nuts and seeds, were hard to see for Esposito, who would watch from about 20 feet away. The magpies turned out to be quicker and more daring. When crows learned that the orange snacks were tasty, they stole them from the magpie. (Rhea Esposito via AP)

WASHINGTON — It's the early bird that gets the Cheetos. But it's the bigger bird that steals it away.

Behavioral ecologist Rhea Esposito used the snack food to see how two types of smart birds— smaller magpies and bigger crows — interact and compete for food.

Birds, like many of us when we're forced to admit it, apparently like Cheetos. Both birds are also naturally suspicious of new things.

And the bright orange color also solved a problem for Esposito. The traditional bait food, nuts and seeds, were hard to see for Esposito, who would watch from her car about 20 feet away. Cheetos — or sometimes their cheaper and yellower generic equivalent — worked well.

She even made it tough for them later by making them pull on a string to get the tasty snack out of a hollow log, illustrating their use of a tool.

Esposito presented her results this week at the Ecological Society of America convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where it was called the Cheetos Challenge. She works at the Cary Institute in New York and did her research in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The magpies turned out to be quicker and more daring. The magpies first explored and tasted the strange junk food, while crows repeatedly approached and retreated. But when the crows learned that Cheetos were tasty, they stole them from the magpies.

Crows were three times more likely to steal Cheetos than magpies.

So while it is fair to say that the early bird gets the Cheetos, Esposito concluded, "they don't get to keep it."

___

Follow Seth Borenstein at http://twitter.com/borenbears and his work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/seth-borenstein

You may also interested in

Webcam whale research buoyed by viewers around...

Aug 15, 2016

Canadian researchers are turning to internet to learn about the social behavior thousands of beluga...

Two-state crime rampage leaves many in Oregon...

Aug 16, 2016

Many people in a scenic Oregon mountain town are reeling after a man who worked in law enforcement...

Prosecutor: Russian man's computer linked to...

Aug 16, 2016

A federal prosecutor told the jury during opening statements on Monday that when federal agents...

Google's Duo app joins crowded field of video...

Aug 16, 2016

Google releases video calling app Duo in challenge to other popular services run by Apple,...

Congress receives FBI notes from Clinton interview

Aug 17, 2016

Congress has received FBI documents related to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a...

The Next Daily is the new generation of online publication, serving you the most recent discoveries made in science and technology on a daily basis. At The Next Daily, we believe in the power of consistent and reliable reporting to inspire and move mankind forward.

Contact us: sales[at]thenextdaily.com