Animal Gift Giving

Photo Credit – Richard Bartz

In the spirit of the holiday season, I found myself thinking about the fact that humans aren’t the only animals who give gifts. While animals don’t celebrate holidays or birthday, there are several species that do offer presents to others, and not just others of the same species. Crows, for example, have been known to bring gifts to people. Among the most intelligent birds, crows sometimes leave gifts for humans who feed them. One young girl in Seattle who regularly fed the crows, received dozens of small objects over years. Dolphins, which are highly social, intelligent animals, also bring gifts to humans. Their gifts of food come from the ocean, including octopuses, eels, and tuna.

Male great grey shrikes, another bird, bring gifts to females during courtship. These gifts are food, such as small animals or crickets. Male penguins bring their mates pebbles, which are used to make nests.

Anyone who’s had a cat can attest to their pet’s gift giving, usually in the form of a dead mouse or bird. The instinct behind this is that cats bring dead (or not-quite-dead yet) animals to their young to teach them how to hunt. As an owner, you too are brought these tools so you can learn how to kill your food.

Bonobos, with which humans share 98.7% of their DNA, are also gift givers. These animals will bring apples, bananas, or food to others who aren’t part of their group. Scientist believe they do this to initiate new interactions and to expand their social networks.

No matter the season or the occasion, may you too find the joy of giving to others (human or otherwise).