A new way of analysing the “social networks” linking birds to each other has been tested on great tits in Wytham Woods, Oxford.

Researchers at Oxford University have been using a new way of analysing data to automatically identify periods of intense social activity between birds.

They have taken a fresh look at around one million observations of great tits made in the woods on the outskirts of the city.

Their analysis has made it possible to calculate which individuals are “real friends”, rather than random passers-by, and which birds are looking to pair up and mate.

The researchers tested data from two breeding seasons of great tits – August 2007 to March 2008 and August 2008 to March 2009.

The data came from transponders attached to thousands of birds and sensors that logged when individuals appeared at any one of 67 bird feeders spread throughout the woods.