Demonstrations of nonhuman ability to share resources and reciprocate such sharing seem contingent upon the experimental paradigm used (note Horner et al. in PNAS 108:13847–13851, 2011). Here, such behaviour in Grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) was tested in two experiments, both designed to avoid possible issues involving apparatus complexity, visible reward options, and physical competition and/or limited communication between subjects. In both studies, two birds, working in dyads, took turns in choosing one of four different coloured cups with differing outcomes: empty (null, nonrewarding), selfish (keeping reward for oneself), share (sharing a divisible reward), or giving (donating reward to other). In Experiment 1, each bird alternated choices with a conspecific; in Experiment 2, each bird alternated with the three humans with different specific intentions (selfish, giving, or copying bird’s behaviour). In both experiments, birds could learn to cooperatively reward a partner at little cost to themselves—by sharing—and potentially maximize overall reward by reciprocating such sharing. Experiment 1 results differed depending upon which bird began a session: Only our dominant bird, as follower, was willing to share. In Experiment 2, birds’ responses tended towards consistency with human behaviour. Our dominant bird was willing to share a reward with a human who was willing to give up her reward, was selfish with the selfish human, and tended towards sharing with the copycat human; our subordinate bird tended slightly towards increased sharing with the generous human and selfishness with the selfish human, but did not change behaviour with the copycat.
Péron, F., John, M., Sapowicz, S., Bovet, D., & Pepperberg, I. M. (2013). A study of sharing and reciprocity in grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus). Animal cognition, 16(2), 197-210.