Singing Activity Reveals Personality Traits in Great Tits


Marc Naguib, Department of Animal Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), PO Box 40, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands.


In animal communication, sexually selected signals have been shown to often signal individual attributes such as motivation or quality. Birdsong is among the best studied signalling systems, and song traits vary substantially among individuals. The question remains if variation in signalling also reflects more general and consistent individual characteristics. Such consistent individual differences in behaviour that are relatively stable over time and contexts are referred to as personality or behavioural syndromes. Here, we studied the relation between singing and explorative behaviour, a well-studied personality trait, using great tits (Parus major) under standardized aviary conditions. The results show that singing activity measured as the number of songs sung in spring prior to breeding correlated with male but not with female explorative behaviour. In contrast, song repertoire was not related to explorative behaviour but varied over the day. The link between explorative and singing behaviour suggests that sexually selected signals are more than signals of quality but can also reflect other intrinsic behavioural characteristics such as personality traits.