Date: May 7, 2017
Source: University of Oxford
Birds of a feather nest together, according to a new study which has found that male great tits (Parus major) choose neighbours with similar personalities to their own.
Oxford University researchers investigated whether the personality of birds influences their social lives -- in particular who they choose to nest near. The study involved analysing social network structure in a population of wild great tits at Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, over six consecutive breeding seasons.
Lead author and doctoral student Katerina Johnson explained: 'We found that males, but not females, were picky about personalities, with males opting for like-minded neighbours. Our results emphasise that social interactions may play a key role in animal decisions.'
This tendency for males to associate with other males of similar personality may be particularly important during the breeding season when aggression peaks. Males fiercely defend their territories and compete for opportunities to mate with females and so shyer males may avoid setting up home near bolder, more aggressive individuals. Females, however, likely choose where to nest based on the attractive qualities of males.
The results also showed that this personality assortment amongst males was not affected by local environmental conditions. 'Just like students choosing their flatmates," Katerina commented, 'birds may pay more attention to who they share their living space with than simply location." She added: "Animal personalities can influence their social organisation and humans are likewise known to form social networks based on shared attributes including personality.'