‘Macho’ male great tits are not as promiscuous as we once thought

18 Oct 2018185 Views

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A male great tit. Image: John Quinn

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New research into the personalities of male great tits has shown the more proactive, ‘macho’ types are much more eager to settle down.

Finding a mate to breed among aviary species can be a competitive experience to say the least, and now new research published by a team from University College Cork (UCC) and Oxford University has shed a light on the great tit.

In a groundbreaking new study published to Nature Ecology and Evolution, the researchers found that two individual male personalities of the bird species greatly influence bonding with their future breeding partner.

The extensive study found that the more proactive ‘macho’ males were quicker to find their future partners, while the shyer, reactive males were happier to spend time flocking with females.

‘This is a highly surprising result’

Proactive males were also shown to put more effort into their relationship prior to breeding season. Analysis of females of the species showed no evidence that their personalities determined their overall pair-bond strength.

The study assessed the personalities of hundreds of individual wild great tits and then used radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to track the birds’ social networks over multiple years.

“We show that personality plays an important role in pair-bonding tactics; bold males dedicate more time to their chosen future partner even long before mating begins, while, unexpectedly, the shy males seem to be choosier and slower to form pair bonds,” said UCC’s Prof John Quinn.

“This is a highly surprising result because, despite forming pair bonds early, earlier research suggests that bold males are also more promiscuous during the breeding season itself.”

Previous research suggested that both male personalities did just as well as each other in terms of reproductive success, but these new findings could mean there is no such thing as a ‘best personality’.

“Being bold and proactive is better for finding a good partner in some social situations, while more reserved strategies are preferable in others,” Quinn added.

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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