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City-life changes blackbird personalities, study shows

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Posted June 19, 2013
This image shows behavioral experiments on urban and forest-dwelling blackbirds. Urban blackbirds wait longer than their forest-born counterparts before approaching a new object (in this case, a plastic cup). Credit: MPI for Ornithology/Ana Catarina Miranda

This image shows behavioral experiments on urban and forest-dwelling blackbirds. Urban blackbirds wait longer than their forest-born counterparts before approaching a new object (in this case, a plastic cup). Credit: MPI for Ornithology/Ana Catarina Miranda

The origins of a young animal might have a significant impact on its behavior later on in life. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, have been able to demonstrate in hand-reared blackbirds that urban-born individuals are less curious and more cautious about new objects than their country counterparts. This study sheds light on an interesting debate on whether personality differences between rural and urban birds are behavioral adjustments to urban environments, or if there is an underlying evolutionary basis to the existence of different personalities in urban habitats.

It’s something pet owners have always known: animals have personalities too. More than 100 species have so far been identified by scientists where individuals consistently follow distinct behavioral strategies and behave in similar ways in a variety of situations. Scientists believe that such differences may also be important in adapting to new habitats.

Urbanization has considerably changed the living conditions of many wild animals. Animals living in urban areas need to cope with new anthropogenically-altered living conditions. A textbook example is the European blackbird (Turdus merula). Historically a forest-dweller, the blackbird is now one of the most common bird species found in our cities. In these new habitats, the blackbird has changed its behavior in many ways: urban blackbirds migrate less in the winter, breed earlier, and live in higher densities than their forest conspecifics.

Read more at: Phys.org

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