Effects of winter social environment on reproductive success in the great tit (Parus major)

A.M. Grabowska-Zhang, B.C. Sheldon, C.A. Hinde

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstractAcademic


Social interactions and their effects on fitness are predominantly studied in social and gregarious species which need to navigate the structure of their societies. In organisms that do not form stable groups, the impact of the social environment may be less clear cut. Previous evidence points towards the benefit of a varied social environment for mating success in gregarious species, but less social organisms may instead benefit from reduced aggression in stable environments, known as the Dear Enemy Phenomenon. The great tit (Parus major) is a socially monogamous breeder, but during non-breeding season individuals aggregate in large, transient foraging flocks. We investigate the relationship between the stability of the social environment in the winter and the reproductive success of individuals the following spring. We used an automated detection system to monitor feeding associations of 994 great tits that subsequently bred in the study population in 3 different years. We quantified the change in the pool of an individual's strongest associates as a measure of social stability, and measured five aspects of reproductive success during the breeding season. Since stable strong associations in the winter remove the cost of renegotiating hierarchy in a transient flock or between neighbouring residents, we predict that more stable social environment predicts higher reproductive success. We present evidence for this hypothesis and discuss the implications of variation in sociality on individual fitness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 14th International Behavioral Ecology Congress (ISBE 2012), 12-17 Augustus 2012, Lund, Sweden
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Event14th International Behavioral Ecology Congress (ISBE 2012), Lund, Sweden -
Duration: 12 Aug 201217 Aug 2012


Conference14th International Behavioral Ecology Congress (ISBE 2012), Lund, Sweden


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