The blue tit and the robin

A century ago, in Britain and Ireland, milk was delivered to people’s doors in lidless bottles. Cream would settle at the top of each bottle, and two species of garden birds in particular learned how to siphon up this new, rich food source – the blue tit and the robin.

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Between the two world wars, dairy distributors closed access to this food source by placing aluminium seals on top of each bottle.

Although some blue tits and some robins figured out separately how to pierce the seal and retain access to the cream, only one species as a whole learned how to do it.

Why?

Because robins are territorial animals – and won’t let other robins enter their territory, whereas blue tits travel in flocks, and hence knowledge spreads more quickly from one member of the species to the next.

Whatever about a robin in 1950, as a human in 2019 knowledge is available more readily than at any previous time, and it makes absolutely no sense to try and hang onto it for yourself.

Share it willingly and generously – you never know what cream you or someone else may get to taste as a result.

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