Paternal behaviour in a socially monogamous but sexually promiscuous passerine bird

in Behaviour
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We documented parental behaviour and paternity of eastern kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) to test the predictions that paternal care would decline with increasing loss of paternity, increasing nesting density (a proxy for probability of paternity loss), male quality, and number of fertile females available in the population. Extra-pair young were found in 58% of 45 nests for which behaviour was recorded and a higher proportion of young were extra-pair as nesting density increased. Male feeding rate declined with increasing nesting density and male quality, but neither feeding rate nor a composite measure of paternal behaviour varied with number of fertile females or paternity. Although alternative explanations exist, one interpretation of the reduced paternal care at high nesting density was that it was a response to perceived threats of paternity loss. The ultimate basis for the lower paternal effort of higher quality males is unclear but we discuss several possible explanations.

Paternal behaviour in a socially monogamous but sexually promiscuous passerine bird

in Behaviour



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  • View in gallery

    Number of male trips to feed young (left) and proportion of the total number of trips to the nest to feed young by the pair that were made by the male (right) in successive years.

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    Relationship between the proportion of trips to feed young and relative male flight feather length as measured by PC2 of the principal component analysis of male morphology for male eastern kingbirds breeding at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Princeton, OR, USA, between 2003 and 2010. Males with high positive scores on the abscissa had long remiges and rectrices in relation to tarsus length. The r2 and p-value refer to the entire data set, but separate regression lines are shown for different categories of paternity: open circle and solid line denote males that lost all paternity in their nest; solid circle and dashed line denote males that gained some paternity in their nest; and half-filled diamond and dotted line denote males that retained all paternity in their nest.

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    Mean feeding rate (± SE) for male eastern kingbirds that lost all paternity (N=9), some paternity (N=17), or no paternity (N=19). Rates are reported without correction for influences of other variables (means ± SE) and as least squares means that account for variation in feeding rate attributable to brood size, the time females spent sheltering the young, nesting density, and male quality (relative length of flight feathers; see text). Data collected between 2003 and 2010 from a kingbird population breeding at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Princeton, OR, USA.

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    Relationship between paternal effort (as measured by scores on the first axis of the principal component analysis of male parental behaviour) and relative flight feather length for eastern kingbirds breeding at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Princeton, OR, USA, between 2003 and 2010. Males with high positive scores on the abscissa had long remiges and rectrices in relation to tarsus length. The r2 and p-value refer to the entire data set, but separate regression lines are shown for different categories of paternity: open circle and solid line = males that lost all paternity in their nest; solid circle and dashed line = males that gained some paternity in their nest; half-filled diamond and dotted line = males that retained all paternity in their nest.


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