Individual variation in spontaneous problem-solving performance among wild great tits

Behavioural traits generally and cognitive traits in particular are relatively understudied in an evolutionary ecological context. One reason for this is that such traits are often difficult to characterize among large numbers of individuals, without the influence of diverse environmental effects swamping intrinsic individual differences. We conducted standardized assays on a natural population of great […]

Role of different colours of aposematic insects in learning, memory and generalization of naïve bird predators

Among the various properties of visual warning signals, colour seems to be especially important for avian predators. We tested the role of particular colours of an aposematic insect (firebug, Pyrrhocoris apterus; Heteroptera: Pyrrhocoridae) in unlearned avoidance, learning, memory and generalization of a naïve avian predator (great tit, Parus major). The wild type of the firebug […]

Great tits in urban noise benefit from high frequencies in song detection and discrimination

Field studies in urban environments have shown that birds sing with higher frequencies in response to noise, but so far there are no perceptual data showing benefits of high-frequency songs over lowfrequency songs under typical urban noise conditions. In this study we investigated the potential effects of specific frequency use in different environments on the […]

Personality affects learning performance in difficult tasks in a sex-dependent way

Animals constantly need to cope with changes in their environment. Coping with changes in cues that are associated with the location and abundance of food is essential for being able to adjust behaviourally to a variable environment. The use of cues in decision making requires appropriate levels of attention and learning ability, which may be […]

Promiscuity, inbreeding and dispersal propensity in great tits

Mating with relatives leads to inbred offspring, which are likely to experience reduced fitness owing to the expression of deleterious recessive alleles. Constraints in social mate choice do not always allow individuals to avoid pairing with kin. A possible means of inbreeding avoidance is to engage in extrapair copulations with unrelated extrapair individuals. In a […]

Problem-solving performance is correlated with reproductive success in a wild bird population

Although interindividual variation in problem-solving ability is well documented, its relation to variation in fitness in the wild remains unclear. We investigated the relationship between performance on a problem-solving task and measures of reproductive success in a wild population of great tits, Parus major. We presented breeding pairs during the nestling provisioning period with a […]

Vertical and horizontal transmission of nest site preferences in titmice

Social learning is widely used among vertebrates to acquire information about a variable environment. We conducted a study of social learning in the wild which involved cross-fostering eggs of blue tits, Cyanistes caeruleus, to nests of great tits, Parus major, and vice versa. This allowed us to quantify the consequences of being reared in a […]

Noise annoys: effects of noise on breeding great tits depend on personality but not on noise characteristics

Anthropogenic noise can have serious implications for animals, especially when they communicate acoustically. Yet, the impacts of noise may depend not only on noise characteristics but also on an individual’s coping style or personality. We tested whether noise is more disturbing if it masks communication signals, and whether characteristics of both the noise and the […]

The adaptive function of hatching asynchrony: an experimental study in great tits

In many bird species offspring hatch over hours or days, which leads to an age and size hierarchy within broods. The function of hatching asynchrony is much debated, and it has been suggested that the induced size hierarchy among offspring may be an adaptive maternal mechanism for maximizing reproductive output under variable environmental conditions. The […]

Dose-dependent responses of avian daily rhythms to artificial light at night

Recent studies have shown that animals are affected by night-time light exposure. Light is a continuous variable, but our knowledge on how individuals react to different light intensities during the night is limited. We therefore determined the relationship between night light intensity and the behaviour and physiology of great tits (Parus major). We measured daily […]