Individual differences and repeatability in vocal production: stress-induced calling exposes a songbird's personality
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Recent research in songbirds has demonstrated that male singing behavior varies systematically with personality traits such as exploration and risk taking. Here we examine whether the production of bird calls, in addition to bird songs, is repeatable and related to exploratory behavior, using the black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) as a model. We assessed the exploratory behavior of individual birds in a novel environment task. We then recorded the vocalizations and accompanying motor behavior of both male and female chickadees, over the course of several days, in two different contexts: a control condition with no playback and a stressful condition where chick-a-dee mobbing calls were played to individual birds. We found that several vocalizations and behaviors were repeatable within both a control and a stressful context, and across contexts. While there was no relationship between vocal output and exploratory behavior in the control context, production of alarm and chick-a-dee calls in the stressful condition was positively associated with exploratory behavior. These findings are important because they show that bird calls, in addition to bird song, are an aspect of personality, in that calls are consistent both within and across contexts, and covary with other personality measures (exploration).