Effects of personality on territory defence in communication networks: A playback experiment with radio-tagged great tits

Mathieu Amy*, Philipp Sprau, Piet De Goede, Marc Naguib

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals often differ consistently in behaviour across time and contexts, and such consistent behavioural differences are commonly described as personality. Personality can play a central role in social behaviour both in dyadic interactions and in social networks. We investigated whether explorative behaviour, as proxy of personality of territorial male great tits (Parus major), predicts their own and their neighbours' territorial responses towards simulated intruders. Several weeks prior to playback, subjects were taken from the wild to test their exploratory behaviour in a standard context in the laboratory. Exploratory behaviour provides a proxy of personality along a slow-fast explorer continuum. Upon release, males were radio-tracked and subsequently exposed to interactive playback simulating a more or a less aggressive territorial intruder (by either overlapping or alternating broadcast songs with the subjects' songs). At the same time, we radio-tracked a neighbour of the playback subject. Male vocal responses during playback and spatial movements after playback varied according to male explorative behaviour and playback treatment. Males with lower exploration scores approached the loudspeaker less, and sang more songs, shorter songs and songs with slower element rates than did males with higher exploration scores. Moreover, neighbour responses were related to the explorative behaviour of the subject receiving the playback but not to their own explorative behaviour. Our overall findings reveal for the first time how personality traits affect resource defence within a communication network providing new insights on the cause of variation in resource defence behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3685-3692
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1700
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication networks
  • Interactive playback
  • Personality
  • Radio-tracking
  • Territorial signalling

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