A fascinating study conducted by animal physiologist Désirée Brucks and zoologist Auguste von Bayern involves a pair of African grey parrots who had been trained to exchange tokens for food. Wanting to see if the birds would share, the entire lot of tokens was given to only one bird. The parrot with the tokens saw that the neighboring parrot didn’t receive anything and began passing some over to the neighbor’s side, allowing them to buy a walnut. This type of altruistic behavior had not been seen with birds ever before.
Animals often share food, but these birds understand that metal rings can be exchanged for treats, and they share the rings with no promise of reward…This sophisticated behavior, which requires an understanding of both currency and the needs of others, has only been described in primates before.