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Birds of a feather do flock together!

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Male birds who exhibit ‘shy’ behaviour are more likely to seek the company of birds with a similar personality than their ‘bold’ peers, a new study has found. Researchers also found that shy birds 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 analysing 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, also found that shy male and female birds don’t interact with as many different individuals as bold males or females.

Shy males and females tend to have more stable relationships than bold ones — being seen with the same individuals more often over time, researchers said.

“Our aim in this project has been to understand why individuals differ in their social behaviour, and ultimately what consequences this has,” said Professor Ben Sheldon, Director of the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, an author of the report.

“We’re increasingly realising that processes in wild populations depend in many ways on how individuals interact with each other,” Sheldon said.

The research team found that similar birds — ‘birds of a feather’ — do indeed flock together, finding shy males most often associated with similar personalities.

“We think shy male birds might group together to avoid the more aggressive bold birds,” said Lucy Aplin, a DPhil student with Oxford University and the ANU Research School of Biology, first author of the report. She explained that females associate freely with all personalities.

“Understanding how personality is related to social network structure, in turn helps us to understand how personality and sociality evolved. We are exploring how a range of alternative social strategies could coexist in the one population,” Aplin added.

The research was published in the journal Ecology Letters . — PTI


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