Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 148, Supplement 2, pp 179–184 | Cite as

Behavioural phenotypes may determine whether social context facilitates or delays novel object exploration in ravens (Corvus corax)

  • Mareike StöweEmail author
  • Kurt Kotrschal


Individuals consistently differ in behavioural phenotypes. Here we examine the interaction between behavioural phenotype and response to social context during novel object exploration in a neophobic corvid species, the raven (Corvus corax). The presence of conspecifics tends to encourage object exploration and learning but may also delay or even inhibit exploratory behaviour. Factors such as individual differences in response to social context may determine whether the presence of a conspecific facilitates or inhibits approach to novel objects. We confronted eleven six-month-old hand-raised ravens with novel objects, both individually and in dyadic combinations. We defined individuals as “fast” and “slow” explorers on the basis of their approach latency to novel objects when tested individually. The presence of a conspecific delayed the approach of fast birds to novel objects. Slow birds, in contrast, approached the novel objects with lower latencies and spent more time close to them when in dyads with fast siblings than when alone. The individuals’ approach behaviour seemed to determine whether social context facilitated or delayed exploratory behaviour. This may contribute to explaining ambiguous results concerning the effects of social context in previous studies.


Corvus corax Novel object exploration Personality Social facilitation 



We acknowledge financial support by the FWF (P 16939 B03). Permanent support was provided by the Verein der Förderer der Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle and the Herzog von Cumberland Stiftung. We thank the zoos of Munich and Wuppertal (Germany) and P. Sömmer for the supplying raven nestlings. Raven nestlings from the wild were taken with permit by the Ministerium für Landwitschaft, Umweltschutz und Raumordnung des Landes Brandenburg on 25 February 2004. All experiments comply with current Austrian laws.


  1. Armitage BA (1986) Individuality, social behaviour and reproductive success in yellow-bellied marmots. Ecology 67:1186–1193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benus RF (2001) Coping in female mice from lines bidirectionally selected for male aggression. Behaviour 138:997–1008CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benus RF, den Daas S, Koolhaas JM, van Oortmerssen GA (1990) Routine formation and flexibility in social and non-social behaviour of aggressive and non-aggressive male mice. Behaviour 112:176–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Both C, Dingemanse NJ, Drent PJ, Tinbergen JM (2005) Pairs of extreme avian personalities have highest reproductive success. J Anim Ecol 74:667–674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown C, Laland K (2001) Social learning and life skills training for hatchery reared fish. J Fish Biol 59:471–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown C, Laland K (2002) Social enhancement and social inhibition of foraging behaviour in hatchery reared Atlantic salmon. J Fish Biol 61:987–998CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bugnyar T, Kotrschal K (2001) Movement coordination and signalling in ravens (Corvus corax): an experimental field study. Acta Ethol 3:101–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carere C, Welink D, Drent PJ, Koolhaas JM, Groothuis TGG (2001) Effects of social defeat in a territorial bird (Parus major) selected for different coping styles. Physiol Behav 73:427–433PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carere C, Groothuis TGG, Möstl E, Dann S, Koolhaas JM (2003) Fecal corticosteroids in a territorial bird selected for different personalities: daily rhythm and the response to social stress. Horm Behav 43:540–548PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cavigelli SA, McClintock MK (2003) Fear of novelty in infant rats predicts adult corticosterone dynamics and an early death. PNAS 100 26:16131–16136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coleman SL, Mellgren RL (1994) Neophobia when feeding alone or in flocks in zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata. Anim Behav 48:903–907CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daisley JN, Bromundt V, Möstl E, Kotrschal K (2004) Enhanced yolk testosterone influences phenotype independent of sex in Japanese quail chicks Coturnix japonica. Horm Behav 47:185–194Google Scholar
  13. D’Eath RB, Burn CC (2002) Individual differences in behaviour: a test of “coping style” does not predict resident intruder aggressiveness in pigs. Behaviour 139:1175–1194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dingemanse NJ, de Goede P (2004) The relation between dominance and exploratory behaviour is context-dependent in wild great tits. Behav Ecol 15(6):1023–1030CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dingemanse NJ, Both C, Drent PJ, van Oers K, van Noordwijk AJ (2002) Repeatability and heritability of exploratory behaviour in great tits from the wild. Anim Behav 64:929–937CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dingemanse NJ, Both C, van Noordwijk AJ, Rutten AL, Drent PJ (2003) Natal dispersal and personalities in great tits (Parus major). Proc R Soc Lond B 270:741–747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dingemanse NJ, Both C, Drent PJ, Tinbergen JM (2004) Fitness consequences of avian personalities in a fluctuating environment. Proc R Soc Lond B 271:847–852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Drent PJ, van Oers K, van Noordwijk AJ (2003) Realised heritability of personalities in the great tit (Parus major). Proc R Soc Lond B 270:45–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ebner K, Wotjak CT, Landgfaf R, Engelmann M (2005) Neuroendocrine and behavioural response to social confrontation: residents versus intruders, active versus passive coping styles. Horm Behav 47:14–21PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Emery NJ, Seed AM, Clayton NS (2003) Alliance formation and social complexity in rooks (Corvus frugilegus). Revista de Etologia Suppl 5:59Google Scholar
  21. Galef BG Jr (1996) Social enhancement of food preferences in Norway rats: a brief review. In: Heyes CM, Galef BG Jr (eds) Social learning in animals, the roots of culture, Academic, San Diego, pp 49–64Google Scholar
  22. Glutz von Blotzheim UN and Bauer KM (1993) Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas. Band 13/III, Passeriformes (4.Teil)., Aula/Wiesbaden, pp 2018Google Scholar
  23. Gómez-Laplaza LM (2002) Social status and investigatory behaviour in the angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare). Behaviour 139:1469–1490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gosling SD, John OP (1999) Personality dimensions in nonhuman animals: A cross-species review. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 8:69–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Groothuis TGG, Carere C (2005) Avian personalities: characterization and epigenesis. Neurosc Biobehav Rev 29:137–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heinrich B (1988a) Why do ravens fear their food? The Condor 90:950–952CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heinrich B (1988b) Winter foraging at carcasses by three sympatric corvids, with emphasis on recruitment by the raven (Corvus corax). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 23:141–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Heinrich B (1995) Neophilia and exploration in juvenile common ravens, Corvus corax. Anim Behav 50:695–704CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heinrich B, Marzluff JM (1995) Why ravens share? Am Sci 83:342–350Google Scholar
  30. Heinrich B, Marzluff JM, Adams W (1995) Fear and food recognition in naive common ravens. Auk 112:499–503Google Scholar
  31. Kijne M, Kotrschal K (2002) Neophobia affects choice of food item size in group foraging common ravens (Corvus corax). Acta Ethol 5:13–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Koolhaas JM, Korte SM, de Boer SF, van der Vegt BJ, van Reenen CG, Hopster H, de Jong IC, Ruis MAW, Blokhuis JH (1999) Coping styles in animals: current status in behaviour and stress-physiology. Neurosc Biobehav Rev 23:925–935CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kralj-Fiŝer S, Scheiber IBR, Blejec A, Kotrschal K (2007) Do personalities show in free-roaming greylag geese? A test of behavioural and physiological consistency over time and across situations. Horm Behav 51:239–248PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krause J, Ruxton GD (2002) Living in groups. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  35. Loretto M-C, Kotrschal K, Bugnyar T (2005) Ontogeny of dominance relations of juvenile common ravens (Corvus corax). XXIX International Ethology Conference, 20–27 August, Budapest, pp 136Google Scholar
  36. Marchetti C, Drent PJ (2000) Individual differences in the use of social information in foraging by captive great tits. Anim Behav 60:131–140PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Marzluff JM, Heinrich B (1991) Foraging by common ravens in the presence and absence of territory holders: an experimental analysis of social foraging. Anim Behav 42:755–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. van Oers K, Drent PJ, de Goede P, van Noordwijk AJ (2004) Realized heritability and repeatability of risk-taking behaviour in relation to avian personalities. Proc Roy Soc Lond B 271:65–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. van Oers K, Klunder M, Drent PJ (2005) Context dependence of personalities: risk-taking behaviour in a social and non-social situation. Behav Ecol 16:716–723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. van Oers K, Drent PJ, Kempenaers B (2006) Personality and promiscuity in the Great Tit. J Ornithol 147(Suppl):7Google Scholar
  41. Promberger C (1992) Mitteilungen aus der Wildforschung: Wölfe und Raben im Yukon. Der Oberösterreichische Jäger 56:34–35Google Scholar
  42. Ratcliffe D (1997) The raven. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  43. Ryer CH, Olla BL (1991) Information transfer and the facilitation and inhibition of feeding in a schooling fish. Environ Biol Fishes 3:317–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Siegel S, Castellan NJ Jr (1988) Nonparametric statistics for the behavioural sciences. 2nd edn, McGraw-Hill, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  45. Sih A, Bell A, Johnson C (2004) Behavioural syndromes: an ecological and evolutionary overview. TREE 19:372–378PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. SPSS (2001) SPSS for windows, Version 11.0.1, SPSS, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  47. Stahler D, Heinrich B, Smith D (2002) Common ravens, Corvus corax, preferentially associate with grey wolves, Canis lupus, as a foraging strategy in winter. Anim Behav 64:283–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stöwe M, Bugnyar T, Loretto MC, Schloegl C, Range F, Kotrschal K (2006a) Novel object exploration in ravens (Corvus corax): effects of social relationships. Behav Proc 73:68–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stöwe M, Bugnyar T, Heinrich B, Kotrschal K (2006b) Effects of group size on approach to novel objects in ravens (Corvus corax). Ethology 112:1079–1088CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Theobald CM, Goupillot RP (1990) The analysis of repeated latency measures in behavioural studies. Anim Behav 40:484–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Valsecchi P, Bosellini H, Sabatini F, Mainardi M, Fiorito G (2002) Behavioural analysis of social effects on problem-solving ability in the house mouse. Ethology 108:1115–1134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Verbeek MEM, Bonn A, Drent P (1996) Exploration, aggressive behaviour and dominance in pair-wise confrontations of juvenile male great tits. Behaviour 133:945–963CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Visalberghi E, Fragaszy D (1995) The behaviour of capuchin monkeys, Cebus apella, with novel food: the role of social context. Anim Behav 49:1089–1095CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Visalberghi E, Addessi E (2000) Seeing group members eating a familiar food enhances the acceptance of novel foods in capuchin monkeys. Anim Behav 60:69–76PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Webb WC (2001) Common raven juvenile survival and movements in a human-augmented landscape. Master’s thesis. University of California, RiversideGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Konrad Lorenz Research StationGrünau 11Austria
  2. 2.Department for Behaviour, Neurobiology and CognitionUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations