Researchers from Oxford University and the Australian National University, who analyzed the social networks of great tits in the Wytham Woods, near Oxford, found sharp contrasts in how shy and bold birds related to others of the species.
They discovered that shy male and female birds don't interact with as many different individuals as their bolder counterparts, but they also tend to have more stable relationships.
That means they are with the same individuals more often over time, according to the researchers.
Birds in the study were tagged with tiny RFID transponders that allowed them to be tracked by sensors at 65 feeding stations. The researchers used records of the millions of feeder visits over an entire winter to reconstruct the tits’ social network.
Their analysis revealed the patterns of how often individual birds interacted with each other, if at all.
“Our aim in this project has been to understand why individuals differ in their social behavior, and ultimately what consequences this has,” said Ben Sheldon, Director of the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford University's Department of Zoology.
He was one of the authors of a report highlighting the research published in the journal Ecology Letters. It concludes that the difference in behavior is likely due to the differing responses to risk — with shy birds tending to engage in low-risk/low-reward behavior while their bolder counterparts engage in high-risk/high-reward activities. Typically, shy birds explore strange environments very slowly whereas bold ones move quickly to check them out.
Photo: Joe Tobias