Collective Behaviour - Summer Seminar Series 2022
When, who and what to copy - dynamic learning strategies in wild birds
Dr. Sonja Wild, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz
This event is part of an event series „CASCB Seminar Series Summer 2022“.
Young individuals of many animal species rely extensively on social learning to acquire new behaviour and information, but the value of social learning decreases as they get more experienced. Therefore, individuals need to be strategic in what, when and who to copy. Previous work on the ontogeny of learning strategies has demonstrated the importance of vertical social learning from parents, particularly in long-lived species with prolonged parental care. Meanwhile, there has been less focus on how learning strategies develop in species in which the transition to independence is more fast-paced. During this seminar, I will present some of our work on the development of social networks and learning strategies in great tits (Parus major) during ontogeny. After leaving their nest, great tit fledglings spend several weeks in their family groups before integrating into local flocks. Based on RFID tracking data, I will show how associations with parents, non-parent adults, siblings and peers change over time, and how these changes in the social network affect the fledglings’ social learning strategies. Behavioural experiments with two-option foraging puzzles showed that early exposure during dependence through parents facilitated learning of the solutions to the puzzle, but the choice of role models was mixed. Furthermore, the importance of social information on choosing between the two options decreased as fledglings got more experienced. Taken together, this research highlights the complex social learning strategies employed by young individuals in a species with short dependence periods and helps to uncover how individual decisions can shape the behavioural diversity expressed on a population level.
After finishing her BSc in Biology and MSc in Anthropology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, Sonja Wild moved to the UK to continue her studies with a PhD at the University of Leeds. Since 2019, Sonja has been a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour (CASCB), University of Konstanz & Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Radolfzell, Germany, collaborating on starter project A4: „Mechanisms underlying heterogeneity in social learning between individuals and groups.“