Fitness consequences of personality in House Sparrows (Passer domesticus)

Animal personality research looks at behavioural variation at an individual level. Repeat measuring shows individual animals behave more similarly to themselves than others. This behavioural constraint seems slightly counter intuitive, since personality suggests individuals cannot fully adapt their behaviour. Personality exists at the cost of behavioural flexibility and is therefore likely to have an important function in natural populations.

My research aims to tackle the question: why does personality exist? This one question has several aspects, such as how is personality adaptive? Is it heritable? Is it an expression of alternative life history strategies, or a carry-over from constraining factors? To do this, my study focuses on personality in a natural population of House Sparrows on Lundy Island.

Lundy island is a beautiful half mile by three mile island some 12 miles off the coast of Devon, England. Here, the House Sparrows have been comprehensively studied for over 12 years and each individual in the population has been tracked throughout its lifespan. House sparrows rarely fly far so the rates of immigration and emigration are extremely low. This ability to monitor a complete population, assessing survival and breeding whilst that population is subject to natural conditions, is key to accurately estimating measures of fitness. As a result, this study will be able to census personality traits across all individuals of the population, and relate these traits to survival and reproduction.


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Isabel Winney (Postgraduate student 2011-)

i.winney (at)

Main Supervisor

Professor Terry Burke


Dr Shinichi Nakagawa

Dr Julia Schroeder

Other personnel

Echo Hsu

Haslina Razali