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Interspecific aggression declines seasonally in breeding great tits Parus major

Samplonius, J. M., 2019, In : Ethology. 125, 3, p. 159-163 5 p.

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During the breeding season, great tits show aggression to protect their nest from intra‐ and interspecific intruders. Aggression is a labile trait that can be plastically expressed as a result of individual differences (e.g., personality), seasonal gradients in the costs and benefits of aggression, or other environmental components (e.g., number of competitors). Competitors may try to take over great tit nests, because the number of suitable nesting sites is limited, and great tits may guard high quality territories. Taking over a great tit nest may be especially fruitful in early phenological stages (egg laying) when great tits frequent their nests less often. However, great tits may compensate for this vulnerability by being more aggressive toward intruders during early nesting stages, a pattern that has already been established in an intraspecific context. Previous studies have shown that interspecific intruders were most likely to die from great tit aggression during great tit egg laying, suggesting great tits may also be more aggressive during this phase in an interspecific context. Here, I tested this hypothesis with simulated territorial intrusions in great tit territories using taxidermized blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus (hereafter called blue tit models). Great tit aggression (number of calls and approach distance toward blue tit model) was assayed during egg laying, incubation, and chick rearing in the breeding season of 2014. Although sample size was low due to a high fraction of non‐responders (n = 44 out of 89 assays across 26 out of 35 individuals), I found that great tits showed a seasonal decline in aggressiveness, which is congruent with intraspecific results on this study species. I discuss my findings in the context of differential adjustment to climate change between interspecific competitors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-163
Number of pages5
JournalEthology
Volume125
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Keywords

  • INFORMATION, COMPETITION, REPEATABILITY, PHENOLOGY, RESIDENT, SHIFTS, BROOD, BLUE, AGE

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