Individual variation in corticosterone and personality traits in the blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

in Behaviour
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Variation in personality traits is predicted to reflect physiology, but the extent to which variations in stress hormones derive from differences in personality and/or state-dependent factors remains unclear. To investigate this, wild blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) were briefly brought into captivity and scored for personality and corticosterone (Cort) concentrations. More active females had lower baseline Cort than less active individuals. Exploratory tendency and neophobia did not co-vary with baseline Cort. Stress-induced Cort concentrations were correlated negatively with exploratory tendency and haematocrit, but positively with mass gain in captivity. Therefore, baseline and stress-induced Cort concentrations in wintering blue tits were associated with state-dependent variables, sex, age and personality traits. Key to interpreting the physiology of personality traits seems to be their interactions with other traits that mediate ability to utilise resources, and thus influence an individual’s perception of its current and future energy balance.

Individual variation in corticosterone and personality traits in the blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

in Behaviour



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    Relationships between personality traits and plasma Cort concentrations. Baseline Cort concentrations were related to (a) activity level in females (crosses, solid line, N=6), but not in males (circles, dashed line, N=31); and unrelated to (b) exploratory tendency (N=37); and (c) neophobia (N=35). Stress-induced Cort concentrations were (d) unrelated to activity levels (N=29); (e) marginally related to neophobia (N=24); and (f) significantly related to exploratory tendency (N=29).

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    Relationships between change in mass over two days of captivity (mass at blood sampling on day 2–mass at capture from wild) and baseline plasma Cort concentrations for juveniles (circles, dashed line, N=13) and adults (stars, solid line, N=23).

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    Relationships between stress-induced plasma Cort concentrations and (a) change in mass over two days of captivity (mass at blood sampling on day 2–mass at capture from wild) (N=30); and (b) mean haematocrit level (N=30).

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    Apparatus used during the captive exploration trials (a) Photo of cage set up. (d) Schematic of cage set up; the food was removed 1 h and water bowl 30 min before the start of the trial, via the door. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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    The apparatus used for neophobia trial. (a) A photo of the novel objects used in the neophobia trial: A, half a purple rubber ball; B, a plastic pink frog. (b) A photo of a blue tit approaching the novel object in a food bowl (photo credits: Katherine Herborn). This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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