Shy birds make great friends

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

two birds
Looks like the great tit on the left is thinking about making a new friend!

Do you know anybody that’s really outgoing? They seem to make new 10 friends a day! On the other hand, individuals who are really shy don’t seem to be comfortable with introducing themselves to new people all the time. They tend to stick to their core group of buddies, instead. It’s such a human trait to be bold or shy, right? Actually, according to researchers from Oxford University, parus major (great tit) birds are the same way!

“Great tits are one of the best studied species of bird in the world and Oxford has led the way in this,” said Lucy Aplin from Oxford University and the Australian National University, who was the lead author of the study. The scientists focused on a parus major flock of about 1,000 members. In order to classify the birds’ sociability, the researchers placed a number of them in a branch-filled room for 10 minutes. Birds who eagerly explored their new surroundings were considered bold, while those who spent most of the time perched on a branch where labeled as shy. To see how the birds interacted in the wild, the researchers put a harmless ring around their legs right before they were released.

Apparently, outgoing birds were quick to make large groups of acquaintances and gather food together, while shy parus majors had a small amount of close friends. “Males tend to prefer to associate with individuals with the same personality type as them and we think this might be to do with shy birds avoiding bold males,” suggested Aplin. “We know that boldness is associated with aggressiveness and males tend to fight more than females do in great tits.”

Does this mean that the outgoing parus majors were cooler that the timid ones? Not exactly. While they did have more bird buddies, their friendships didn’t last very long. If anything, the shy birds were the better friends to have, because they stayed in their relationships for much longer!

Featured image courtesy of Luc Viatour in Wikipedia. Image of two parus major birds courtesy of Tatiana Bullyonkova on Flickr.