These birds appear to be signaling ‘after you’

Non-verbal gestures are an integral part of how humans and some other organisms communicate, as with various sign languages  and expressing emotions. A small-bird species called the Japanese tit (Parus minor) also may also use this more complex form of communication. In a study published March 25 Current Biology, a team from the University of Tokyo describes how this small bird appears to use this wing to say “after you” to indicate that the other bird.

According to the study, when a mating pair arrives at their nest box carrying food, the two will wait outside. One bird will then often flutter its wings towards the other, apparently indicating that the other bird can enter the home first. 

The team believes that this discovery challenges earlier beliefs that only a few species use gestures to communicate. Chimpanzees, bonobos, ravens, and some fish appear to use a form of communication called deictic gesturing. This is when simple gestures are deployed to point out objects or show something of interest. Symbolic gestures, such as how humans use an open hand to signal “after you,” requires more complex cognitive skills and have been difficult to observe.

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