Behaviour 2019
The Weighing of Social and Asocial Information in Nest-building Decisions
Gopika Balasubramanian1, Andrés Camacho-Alpízar1, Connor T Lambert1, Tristan Eckersley1, Lauren M Guillette1,2. 1Department of Psychology,University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; 2School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, United Kingdom

Social information obtained from other individuals and asocial cues obtained directly from the environment can influence an animal’s choices. How do animals evaluate and prioritize these different information sources while making decisions? Here we examined this question in the context of nest building. Specifically, we tested the extent to which nest material choice was driven by a preference to camouflage the nest against a background (asocial) or match a conspecific’s nest (social) in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata. Following an initial preference test among three differently colored materials, zebra finch pairs were given social information about nest material via conspecifics that built a nest with one of the pair’s initially non-preferred colours. Later, the pairs had an opportunity to build their own nest against a colored background (asocial cue), also of an initially non-preferred color which either coincided or conflicted with the social information. Through assessing the pairs’ final preference for the three material options when building their nests, we acquire insight into how social and asocial factors interact to inform nest-building decisions.