Social Rank: Social conflict increases stress hormone levels, such as glucocorticoid, and has other associated costs on the body’s function. To mitigate this effect, birds have developed a system that is dependent on the dominance of alphas and the subordinate social status of the subordinate individuals. These rankings are often established through physical contest and reinforced by threatening behavior as well as submissive posturing of the inferior specimens. Several factors, including age, parasite load, physiology and sex all determine status and these figures typically have greater access to food or mates as well as decreased risk of predation. Furthermore, as evidence suggests, birds are able to differentiate individuals based on heritable features such as plumage, size, behavior and voice.
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