Individuals foraging in groups constantly need to make decisions, such as when to leave a group, when to join a group, and when to move collectively to another feeding site. In recent years, it has become evident that personality may affect these foraging decisions, but studies where individuals are experimentally forced into different roles are still absent. Here, we forced individual barnacle geese, Branta leucopsis, differing in boldness scores, either in a joining or in a leaving role in a feeding context. We placed a food patch at the far end of a test arena and measured the arrival latency and number of visits of individuals to the patch either in the presence of a companion that was confined near the food patch (“joining context”) or in the presence of a companion that was confined away from the food patch (“leaving context”). We also ran trials without a companion (“nonsocial context”). Bolder individuals arrived more quickly than shyer individuals in the “leaving” context, but there was no effect of boldness in the “joining” context, suggesting that boldness differences are important in explaining variation in leaving behavior but not in joining behavior. The difference in arrival latency between the “joining” and non-social context increased with decreasing boldness score, suggesting that shyer individuals are more responsive to the presence of other individuals (i.e., social facilitation). These results indicate that individual differences in boldness play a role in patch choice decisions of group-living animals, such as when to leave a flock and when to join others at a patch.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Journal publication date2012

ID: 171586