Repeatability and degree of territorial aggression differs among urban and rural great tits (Parus major)

Samuel Hardman, Sarah Dalesman

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Animals in urban habitats face many novel selection pressures such as increased human population densities and human disturbance. This is predicted to favour bolder and more aggressive individuals together with greater flexibility in behaviour. Previous work has focussed primarily on studying these traits in captive birds and has shown increased aggression and reduced consistency between traits (behavioural syndromes) in birds from urban populations. However, personality (consistency within a behavioural trait) has not been well studied in the wild. Here we tested whether urban free-living male great tits show greater territorial aggression than rural counterparts. We also tested predictions that both behavioural syndromes and personality would show lower consistency in urban populations. We found that urban populations were more aggressive than rural populations and urban birds appeared to show lower levels of individual behavioural repeatability (personality) as predicted. However, we found no effect of urbanisation on behavioural syndromes (correlations between multiple behavioural traits). Our results indicate that urban environments may favour individuals which exhibit increased territorial aggression and greater within-trait flexibility which may be essential to success in holding urban territories. Determining how urban environments impact key fitness traits will be important in predicting how animals cope with ongoing urbanisation
Original languageEnglish
Article number5042
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2018


  • animal behaviour
  • behavioural ecology
  • urban ecology


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