Date: September 14, 2016
Source: Oxford University
Great tits pick their spring breeding sites to be near their winter flockmates, according to new research into the social networks of birds from the University of Oxford.
The study shows that as mated pairs of great tits settle down to breed in the spring, they establish their homes in locations close to their winter flockmates. They also arrange their territory boundaries so that their most-preferred winter 'friends' are their neighbours.
The findings give new insights into the social behaviour of birds and demonstrate how social interactions can shape other aspects of wild animals' lives, such as the environmental conditions they will experience based on their choice of home location.
The research is published in the journal Ecology Letters.
Lead author Dr Josh Firth, of the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology, said: 'The great tits we study are a good general model for many other bird species. They form large flocks in the winter, when they're searching for food, and then each pair chooses a single set breeding site where they will be located throughout the spring as they build a nest and raise their chicks.
'We show that they appear to choose their spring breeding sites to stay close to their winter flockmates. Not only do they nest closest to the birds they held the strongest winter social bonds with, they also appear to arrange their territories so that they share home boundaries with those birds.'