Nav: Home

Maintaining social relationships is important for more than finding a mate

February 12, 2020

There are numerous articles on how friendships change in your 20s, 30s, and after marriage or parenthood. What we don't know is how ubiquitous these changes are throughout the animal kingdom. Researchers from Archbold Biological Station describe the social lives of Florida Scrub-Jays in different stages of life in the journal PeerJ on February 10, 2020.

Florida Scrub-Jays are monogamous cooperative breeders that mate for life. In most birds, after the offspring leave the nest they disperse to breed on their own. In Florida Scrub-Jays, the young delay dispersal, remaining with their parents to help rear their younger siblings for the next few years. They are known as helpers.

Lead author Dr. Angela Tringali, along with co-authors that included two post-baccalaureate research interns, found that these helpers associate with many more individuals than breeders. "If helpers want to become breeders, they need their own territory and mate. In addition to helping their parents, they make forays away from home, presumably looking for available territories and potential mates. This increases the number of other birds that helpers associate with and the helpers' importance in connecting individuals with one another," explains Tringali. Whether a bird was a breeder or helper explained 38% of the variation in the number of individual "associates" among birds and 48% of its 'cliquishness', the tendency to associate with a set of individuals all of whom are directly associated.

In 2018, a year marked by unusually low reproductive success at Archbold, where the demography of Florida Scrub-Jays has been studied for 50 years, some breeders did not nest, and those that did nest began later in the year. In this year, breeders socialized with far more birds, much like the helpers. Without nests or young that needed care, breeders chose to interact with other individuals outside of their immediate family, in a manner similar to helpers, suggesting that social interactions are more important than simply finding a new mate.

The authors conclude that an individual's strategy for success changes with its life stage. As helpers, individuals explore to find a territory and mate, but once found, the priority shifts to defending their territory and provisioning offspring. But even for breeders, when time permits, socialization beyond the family group is important. "We have tended to frame foray behavior strictly as a strategy for finding a territory or mate, but this analysis demonstrates that when not tending an active nest, breeders also will foray beyond their territories. Maintaining extra-group relationships may reduce the costs of territory defense, predation risk, or the time spent in vigilance, and enhance knowledge of the status of neighboring territories," noted Dr. Reed Bowman, Research Director of the Avian Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station.

The authors note that these conclusions are based on 'snapshots in time' collected by scientists visiting sampling points near the intersection of scrub-jay territory boundaries twice per week. Next, the plan is to get a more complete picture of where, when, and with whom the birds are interacting. Dr. Bowman says, "We are completing a pilot project tracking scrub-jays tagged with a new technology of transmitters whose signals are received by a grid of receivers. We will know the exact location of multiple scrub-jays throughout the day, which will enable us to answer questions about social interactions in more detail and better understand habitat use, movement, and dispersal."
-end-


Archbold Expeditions, Inc.

Related Birds Articles:

How birds evolved big brains
An international team of evolutionary biologists and paleontologists have reconstructed the evolution of the avian brain using a massive dataset of brain volumes from dinosaurs, extinct birds like Archaeopteryx and the great auk, and modern birds.
Microelectronics for birds
Ornithologists and physicists from St Petersburg University have conducted an interdisciplinary study together with colleagues from Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Biological Station Rybachy of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Birds of a feather better not together
A new study of North American birds from Washington University in St.
Not-so-dirty birds? Not enough evidence to link wild birds to food-borne illness
Despite the perception that wild birds in farm fields can cause food-borne illness, a WSU study has found little evidence linking birds to E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter outbreaks.
Birds are shrinking as the climate warms
After 40 years of collecting birds that ran into Chicago buildings, scientists have been able to show that the birds have been shrinking as the climate's warmed up.
Diving birds follow each other when fishing
Diving seabirds watch each other to work out when to dive, new research shows.
Why do birds migrate at night?
Researchers found migratory birds maximize how much light they get from their environment, so they can migrate even at night. 
How can robots land like birds?
Birds can perch on a wide variety of surfaces, thick or thin, rough or slick.
Is wildfire management 'for the birds?'
Spotted owl populations are in decline all along the West Coast, and as climate change increases the risk of large and destructive wildfires in the region, these iconic animals face the real threat of losing even more of their forest habitat.
Feathers came first, then birds
New research, led by the University of Bristol, suggests that feathers arose 100 million years before birds -- changing how we look at dinosaurs, birds, and pterosaurs, the flying reptiles.
More Birds News and Birds Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.