Apologies in advance for the ridiculous amount of yawns that reading this post will engender. (Our first victim appears to be the Ring-billed Gull above, photographed by Corey.) Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Science is fairly well established that yawning can spread like wildfire among groups of humans, as well as a few other mammals. New research suggests that the phenomenon of contagious yawning can also be seen in birds. (Click here to go directly to the study.)
Scientists from the State University of New York at Oneonta (SUNY Oneonta to natives) studied parakeets (also known as budgies). In one experiment, yawns were observed when birds in neighboring cages could see each other, and again when views of adjacent birds were blocked. In the other study, the birds—which seem to be great mimics of videos—were shown footage of budgies yawning.
The amount of yawns increased significantly when the test birds could see others—whether real, or on a screen—also yawning. This finding doesn’t help scientists fully understand why contagious yawning is a thing, but it does suggest that these birds might be useful for further studies of empathetic behaviors. In the meantime, though, please excuse me as I let out the whopping yawn I’ve been stifling the whole time I was writing this post.