CANBERRA, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Shy birds stick together and gain courage through numbers, whereas bold birds go it alone, a new research statement of the Australian National University (ANU) showed Thursday.
Within species of birds, such as the British great tit, there is a variety of personalities and scientists have been studying how the range of traits persists through generations and structures societies.
Researchers from the ANU are part of an international team that rated great tits on a personality axis ranging from shy to bold. The team tracked how they interacted with other birds to determine how their personality influenced social behaviour.
According to their findings, bold birds went for quantity over quality in their relationships, having weaker associations with more birds and foraging with several different groups.
"Measuring the social networks we could see that bolder birds tended to hop between foraging flocks and have short term foraging associations, while shy birds tended to maintain a foraging association over a long time," said Lucy Aplin, a PhD student from this team.
This difference in behaviors is likely to be due to the differing responses to risk -- shy birds tend to engage in low risk/low reward behavior, whereas their bolder counterparts engage in high risk/high reward behavior.
"Shy birds are following a social strategy where they maintain a few strong and stable social associations to minimise risk," she added.
The research team found that 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," Aplin explained. "Grouping together might allow shy birds to engage in risk-taking behaviour that would otherwise be avoided."
According to her, understanding how personality is related to social network structure in turn helps researchers to understand how personality and sociality evolved. "We are exploring how a range of alternative social strategies could coexist in the one population," Aplin concluded.