Individual differences in personality affect behavior in novel or challenging situations. Personality traits may be subject to selection because they affect the ability to dominate others. We investigated whether dominance rank at feeding tables in winter correlated with a heritable personality trait (as measured by exploratory behavior in a novel environment) in a natural population of great tits, Parus major. We provided clumped resources at feeding tables and calculated linear dominance hierarchies on the basis of observations between dyads of color-ringed individuals, and we used an experimental procedure to measure individual exploratory behavior of these birds. We show that fast-exploring territorial males had higher dominance ranks than did slow-exploring territorial males in two out of three samples, and that dominance related negatively to the distance between the site of observation and the territory. In contrast, fast-exploring nonterritorial juveniles had lower dominance ranks than did slow-exploring nonterritorial juveniles, implying that the relation between dominance and personality is context-dependent in the wild. We discuss how these patterns in dominance can explain earlier reported effects of avian personality on natal dispersal and fitness. [KEYWORDS: boldness; dispersal; dominance; exploration; fitness; Parus major; personality]
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Journal publication date2004

ID: 331032