, Volume 64, Issue 10, pp 1589-1600

Correlates of male mating success in great bustard leks: the effects of age, weight, and display effort

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We examined how mating success varied in relation to age, weight, body size, and display behavior among great bustard Otis tarda males. The estimated mating success was strongly skewed, with 45% of adult males being involved in copulation attempts and only 9.7% actually seen copulating successfully. Unlike most birds, body size continued increasing in great bustards several years after reaching sexual maturity. Age, weight, and display effort were all significant and independent predictors of male mating success. The higher display effort involved performing longer full-display bouts. Older males could detach from the male flock earlier in the season as well as on each day and spend longer seasonal and daily periods displaying as solitary birds, which contributed to increase their mating success. In contrast, males weighing more did not invest more in display, which suggests that they could be recognized as dominants by other males and selected by females through assessment of their plumage sexual traits. In contrast to most other bird species, the system described for great bustards resembles that found in some lek-mating ungulates, where social rank is a complex trait determined by both age and mass, and as in these mammals, it suggests that sexual selection continues to favor a high male weight in this extremely sexually dimorphic species.

Communicated by E. Korpimäki