University of Oxford
Male birds that exhibit ‘shy’ social behavior are much more likely to join flocks of birds with a similar personality than their ‘bold’ male counterparts, a new study has found. But shy birds also have fewer social partners than bold birds.
The research, carried out by scientists from Oxford University and the Australian National University, used a new way of analyzing the social networks that link individual animals to each other – a kind of ‘Facebook for birds’ – to reveal how differences between individuals underpin the way that social interactions occur across populations.
The study of great tits (Parus major) in Wytham Woods, near Oxford (UK), also found that shy male and female birds don’t interact with as many different individuals as bold males or females, and that shy males and females tend to have more stable relationships than bold ones – being seen with the same individuals more often over time.
A report of the research is published in the journal Ecology Letters this week.
“Our aim in this project has been to understand why individuals differ in their social behaviour, and ultimately what consequences this has. We’re increasingly realising that processes in wild populations depend in many ways on how individuals interact with each other,” said Professor Ben Sheldon, Director of the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, an author of the report.
“There has been a lot of work describing the range of individual personalities in the great tit,” said Lucy Aplin, a DPhil student with Oxford University and the ANU Research School of Biology, first author of the report. “Now we are linking it to the social networks and social organisation of the species, which hasn’t been done before.”