Behaviour 2019
Is the black tie of Great Tits a signal in territorial interactions? An investigation with 3D printed models
Alican Avşar1, Cemal C. Bilgin1, Çağlar Akçay2,3. 1Department of Biology, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, , Turkey; 2Department of Psychology, Koç University, İstanbul, , Turkey; 3Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, United States

Animals often use signals to resolve aggressive interactions without resorting to physical aggression. For instance, in many bird species, melanin-based plumage traits serve as “badges of status” in settling conflicts in dominance hierarchies in winter flocks. Whether such badges are also functional as a signal in territorial interactions however is less studied. Here we ask whether the “black tie” of the great tits, Parus major, is used to assess territorial intruders by male great tits. Specifically, we performed playback experiments on territorial males, in which we coupled song playback with 3D printed Great Tit models with narrow and wide black ties. We also included a negative control (a monochrome gray 3D model) to ask whether great tits perceived the hand-painted 3D models as conspecific intruders. We predicted a more robust territorial response to the models with larger black-tie. Our study is expected to contribute to a better understanding the relationship between territory defense and plumage ornamentation in Great Tits. The use of 3D printed models also provide new opportunities to study the coloration signals in animals.