‘Macho’ male birds more likely to settle down and find a mate

Male great tits: Less promiscuous. Picture: Prof John Quinn, UCC

The early bird may be the one to catch the worm but it’s the more confident male who is more likely to find a mate.

New research into male great tits has shown the proactive prefer to settle down with a partner while shyer ones like to hang out with the female flock.

A joint study by University College Cork and Oxford University also shows that macho male great tits are not as promiscuous as once thought. The groundbreaking study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution has found that two individual personalities of male great tits influence bonding with their future breeding partner.

Finding a mating partner is of great importance to great tits, as it is for many animal species. My colleagues and I wanted to ask why individuals of the same species differ so much in how much effort they put into forming these relationships,” said Professor John Quinn of UCC.

The more proactive males choose their future partners sooner while shyer, reactive males spend more time flocking with other females. Pro-actives also put more effort into their relationship before the breeding season begins. Females’ personality, on the other hand, did not determine their overall pair-bond strength.

The fieldwork, which was carried out at Oxford University’s Wytham Woods, assessed the personalities of hundreds of individual wild great tits and then used radio-frequency identification tags to track their social networks.

“We show that personality plays an important role in pair-bonding tactics; bold males dedicate more time to their chosen future partner, even long before mating begins, while, unexpectedly, the shy males seem to be choosier and slower to form pair bonds,” said Prof Quinn.

“This is a highly surprising result because earlier research suggests that bold males are also more promiscuous.”

“Earlier results also suggest bold and shy males do just as well in terms of reproductive success. Together these findings suggest that there may be no ‘best personality’. Being bold and proactive is better for finding a good partner in some social situations, while more reserved strategies are preferable in others.”

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