CZAAWE Resource Article

Behavioural syndromes in Steller's jays: the role of time frames in the assessment of behavioural traits
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Animal Behaviour
Behavioural syndromes describe consistent and correlated individual differences in behavioural traits. Quantifying individual differences often requires researchers to capture and hold animals in captivity while short-term behavioural assays are recorded. We compared behavioural responses of adult, territorial Steller's jays in short- and long-term field assessments of behavioural traits in two ecological contexts, risk taking and exploration. Individuals' risk taking was similar in short-term and long-term contexts (i.e. alarm calling in the presence of a predator mount and while re-entering a trap, respectively). However, a measure of short-term exploration of a novel object in a feeding context was not related to a long-term index of annual habitat exploration (i.e. travel distance outside home territory). Risk-taking and exploration indices were correlated across ecological contexts, indicating that these traits contributed to a behavioural syndrome in jays. Annual assessments of risk-taking and exploration behaviours were repeatable. Individuals with high scores in risk taking and exploration were more likely to be recaptured in a familiar trap. We conclude that short-term experiments are adequate measures of specific behavioural strategies, but because short-term responses did not necessarily predict long-term annual behaviours in related contexts, expression of behavioural types and associated ecological strategies should be regarded as species and context specific. Long-lived residents are useful study species to overcome sampling biases for traits measured in captivity, because they provide opportunity to evenly sample a population over all personality types, including trap-shy individuals.