Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Todd M. Freeberg

Committee Members

Gordon M. Burghardt, Neil Greenberg, Wesley G. Morgan


The research described here tested for relationships among behavioral consistency, personality traits, and communicative behavior in a socially and vocally complex avian species, the Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis). First, I tested for the existence of behavioral profiles, also known as non-human animal personality, across varying contexts (presence of predator, foraging within a novel object, and novel conspecific) in the laboratory. I found evidence for behavioral profiles encompassing behavioral patterns such as activity, affiliation, aggression, and boldness. Second, I incorporated a larger social component to these studies by testing birds housed in social groups in semi-naturalistic aviary settings. In the aviaries, I tested for behavioral profiles in more complex social environments, and also tested for relationships between personality-like influences and the chick-a-dee call, the key vocalization of this species used in social organization. There has been very little work devoted to testing relationships between personality-like traits and communicative behavior. As in the laboratory study, I found evidence for behavioral profiles in the more complex social setting of the aviaries. I found aggression and boldness to be strongly, positively correlated with chick-a-dee call rate. Additionally, I found particular note types within the chick-a-dee call to be indicative of both aggressive behavior and avian predator presence. Taken together, findings from these studies indicate that personality-like influences in chickadees may play an important role in constraining variation in individual, social, and communicative behavior.

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