Socio-ecological shaping mixed-species groups.
During my DPhil at the University of Oxford's Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, I studied how mixed-species groups are formed and maintained, linking individual behaviour to community processes. Specifically, I used mixed-species flocks of individually-marked (PIT-tagged) songbirds (tits, Paridae) in Wytham Woods near Oxford as a model system, and combined observational and experimental approaches to study transmission of social information and collective behaviour in heterogeneous groups. I developed a framework that is based on concepts of optimality to link processes of group formation to signalling theory and information use, and compared observed pattern of individuals’ social decisions to simulated processes for hypothesis testing. I also studied consistency in individuals’ social phenotypes, and how and why individuals differ in their social behaviours and network positions. Participation in mixed-species flocks is a complex balance of competition cost and grouping benefits, mediated by both individual phenotype and environmental conditions.