Destruction of a conspecific nest by a female Superb Lyrebird: evidence for reproductive suppression in a bird with female-only parental care

In: Behaviour
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  • a Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Hawkesbury Campus, Ground Floor, Building R2, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
  • b Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3086, Australia
  • c Research Centre for Future Landscapes, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3086, Australia
  • d Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group, 30 Moores Road, Monbulk, VIC 3793, Australia
  • e Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
  • f Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University Ithaca, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, USA

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Abstract

Reproductive suppression, whereby individuals decrease the reproductive output of conspecific rivals, is well-studied in mammals, but while it is suspected to be widespread in birds, evidence of this phenomenon remains rare in this class. Here we provide compelling evidence of reproductive suppression in the Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandie), with the first audio-visual documentation of the destruction of one female’s nest by another. We propose that nest destruction may be a strategy that females use in protracted territorial negotiations spanning multiple breeding seasons, and discuss how reproductive suppression could explain puzzling nesting behaviours in this species, such as the construction of multiple unfinished nests in each breeding season. More broadly, these results reveal high intra-sexual competition among female lyrebirds, and thus may provide an explanation for their elaborate vocal displays.

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