Expression of sexually selected signals in many species varies over time of day and season. A key model system to study this variation in signal expression is birdsong. Yet, despite good ecological understanding of why song varies across time of day and season, much of the individual variation remains unexplained. Although some of the interindividual variation in singing depends on the quality or motivation of an individual, it can also vary with other characteristics. Because singing has been shown to vary with personality traits in specific contexts, personality is thus an important candidate to explain part of the variation in seasonal and daily singing. Using a personality-typed field population of great tits (Parus major), we here show that singing activity peaked at dawn during the fertile period of the females and that the association between male personality and singing activity depended on the reproductive stage of his mate; faster explorers significantly increased in singing activity during main periods of fertility and maternal investment (egg laying and incubation). Moreover, males with higher singing activity tended to raise more fledglings. Increased singing by faster explorers during key periods of female reproductive investment suggests that faster explorers are more responsive to changes in female reproductive stage, contrasting the general view that faster explorers are less responsive to environmental and social changes. Most importantly, these findings highlight that multiple factors including personality need to be integrated when assessing causes of variation of highly variable sexually selected signal traits.
Naguib, M., van Rooij, E. P., Snijders, L., & van Oers, K. (2016). To sing or not to sing: seasonal changes in singing vary with personality in wild great tits. Behavioral Ecology, 27(3), 932-938. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arv235