Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Block, T. A., Star, R., Shizuka, D., Chaine, A. S., & Lyon, B. E. (2021). A migratory sparrow has personality in winter that is independent of other traits. Animal Behaviour, 178, 217-227.


THis is an open access article under the CC BY-NCND license


Small birds in winter face trade-offs between predation risk and foraging, and alternate life-history strategies may arise from these trade-offs. Animal personality shows similarities with alternative life-history strategies, and using a life-history context to understand personality can provide valuable insights. Golden-crowned sparrows, Zonotrichia atricapilla, a small migratory bird, have a complex winter social system with high site-fidelity, long-term social associations between individuals and competition mediated by badges of status. We asked whether golden-crowned sparrows show personalities during winter, whether these personalities were consistent over 3 years and whether they correlated with social and morphological traits. We found that golden-crowned sparrows had highly repeatable behaviours, as measured in captive behavioural assessments, constituting personalities consistent within one season and over time for up to 3 years, a time span that covers the average life span of the sparrows. While long-term repeatability was present, it varied considerably among different behaviours and time spans, and length of time between measures did not predict the magnitude of repeatability. Two movement-based aspects of sparrow personality were independent of the traits we measured (dominance, badges of status, size and age). However, nonsong vocalizations (a repeatable aspect of personality) correlated with wing length and gold badge size in some years. Because personality did not strongly link to the social traits we measured, sparrow personality could represent a separate axis of variation that might connect with other winter life-history parameters such as foraging, predation response or survival.