Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 141–145 | Cite as

Agonistic interactions in siskin flocks: Why are dominants sometimes subordinate?

  • J. C. Senar
  • M. Camerino
  • N. B. Metcalfe


Dominance interactions among captive siskins were examined to see if the behavior of dominants reduced the risk of subordinates leaving the flock. The outcome of aggressive encounters was related to the possession status of the two birds (i.e., which bird was first to arrive at the contested resource) and the type of aggression used (i.e., display or attack). More dominant birds were successful whether they were possessors or intruders, and whether they attacked or displayed. When possessors, they tended to display, presumably because of the greater cost of attack and the lack of substantial benefits associated with it. When intruding, they tended to attack, possibly because attack is slightly more successful than display. When initiating encounters against dominants, subordinates were more successful if they were possessors than if they were intruders. Subordinates tended to use displays whether they were possessors or intruders, even though when the birds were intruding, displays were less successful than attacks. Subordinates may use display when intruding because attack holds a higher risk of retaliation. The fact that siskins can repel more dominant intruders merely by using displays suggests that dominants, by respecting possession and allowing reversals, are able to reduce the likelihood that subordinates will leave the flock. This may be to the dominants' long-term advantage, since they gain benefits from being in stable flocks.


High Risk Possession Status Great Cost Agonistic Interaction Substantial Benefit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Balph MH (1977) Winter social behaviour of dark-eyed juncos: Communication, social organization, and ecological implications. Anim Behav 25:859–884Google Scholar
  2. Balph MH (1979) Flock stability in relation to social dominance and agonistic behaviour in wintering dark-eyed juncos. Auk 96:714–722Google Scholar
  3. Brown JL (1963) Social organization and behavior of the mexican jay. Condor 65:126–153Google Scholar
  4. Collias NE, Taber RD (1951) A field study of some grouping and dominance relations in ring-necked pheasants. Condor 6:265–275Google Scholar
  5. Coutlee EL (1967) Agonistic behaviour in the american goldfinch. Wilson Bull 79:89–109Google Scholar
  6. Davies NB (1978) Territorial defense in the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria): the resident always wins. Anim Behav 26:138–147Google Scholar
  7. Ekman J (1987) Exposure and time use in willow tit flocks: the cost of subordination. Anim Behav 35:445–452Google Scholar
  8. Ellis CHR (1966) Agonistic behavior in the male starling. Wilson Bull 78:208–224Google Scholar
  9. Ens BJ, Goss-Custard, JD (1984) Interference among oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus, feeding on mussels, Mytilus edulis, on the Exe estuary. J Anim Ecology 53:217–231Google Scholar
  10. Fischel W (1927) Beitrage zur Soziologie des Haushuhns. Biol Zentralbl 47:678–696Google Scholar
  11. Glück E (1980) Ernährung und Nahrungsstrategie des Stieglitzes Carduelis carduelis, Ökol Vögel 2:43–91Google Scholar
  12. Hartzler JE (1970) Winter dominance relationship in blackcapped chickadees. Wilson Bull 82:427–434Google Scholar
  13. Hinde RA (1981) Animal signals: ethological and games-theory approaches are not incompatible. Anim Behav 29:535–542Google Scholar
  14. Hogstad O (1987) It is expensive to be dominant. Auk 104:333–336Google Scholar
  15. Huntingford FA, Turner AK (1987) Animal conflict. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  16. Krebs JR (1982) Territorial defense in the great tit: doe residents always win? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 11:185–195Google Scholar
  17. Kummer H, Götz W, Angst W (1973) Triadic differentiation: an inhibitory process protecting pair bonds in baboons. Behaviour 49:62–87Google Scholar
  18. Maynard Smith J (1982) Evolution and the theory of games. Cambridge Univ Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Maynard Smith J, Parker GA (1976) The logic of asymmetric contests. Anim Behav 24:159–175Google Scholar
  20. Metcalfe NB (1986) Variation in winter flocking associations and dispersion patterns in the turnstone Arenaria interpres. J Zool (Lond) 209:385–403Google Scholar
  21. Nelson DA (1984) Communication of intentions in agonistic contexts by the pigeon guillemot, Cepphus columba. Behaviour 25:447–459Google Scholar
  22. Parker GA (1974) Assessment strategy and the evolution of fighting behaviour. J Theoret Biol 47:223–243Google Scholar
  23. Patterson IJ (1977) Aggression and dominance in winter flocks of shelduck Tadorna tadorna. Anim Behav 25:447–459Google Scholar
  24. Popp JW (1987a) Risk and effectiveness in the use of agonistic displays by american goldfinches. Behaviour 103:141–156Google Scholar
  25. Popp JW (1987b) Resource value and dominance among american goldfinches. Bird Behaviour 7:73–77Google Scholar
  26. Rohwer S, Ewald PW (1981) The cost of dominance and advantage of subordinance in a badge signaling system. Evolution 35:441–454Google Scholar
  27. Sabine WS (1949) Dominance in winter flocks of juncos and tree sparrows. Physiol Zool 22:64–85Google Scholar
  28. Schein MW (ed.) (1975) Social hierarchy and dominance. Dowden, Hutchinsons Ross, StroudsburgGoogle Scholar
  29. Schelderup-Eppe T (1922) Beiträge zur Sozialpsychologie des Haushuhns. Zeitschr für Psychol 88:225–252Google Scholar
  30. Senar JC (1982) Conducta agonīstica y organizaciōn social del lügano en cautividad. Tesis de Licenciatura, Univ. Central de BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  31. Senar JC (1984) Allofeeding in eurasian siskins (Carduelis spinus). Condor 86:213–214Google Scholar
  32. Senar JC (1985a) Interactional rules in captive siskins. Misc Zool 9:347–360Google Scholar
  33. Senar JC (1985b) Prior ownership in siskins (Carduelis spinus). In: Abstracts spoken and poster papers. 19th Int. Ethol. Conf. Toulouse: Université P. Sabatier (p. 359)Google Scholar
  34. Senar JC (1987) Formaciōn y dināmica de jerarquias sociales en aves. In: J Balsa, JM Santiago, JM Naranjo (eds) Estudios de Etologia. I Jornadas de Etologia, Universidad Autōnoma Madrid, Madrid (pp. 123–130)Google Scholar
  35. Senar JC, Metcalfe NB (1988) Differential use of local enhancement for finding food by resident and transient siskins. Anim Behav 36:1549–1550Google Scholar
  36. Shawcross JE (1982) Agonistic behaviour over food and perch space in male Quelea quelea. Anim Behav 30:901–908Google Scholar
  37. Siegel S (1956) Non parametric statistics for the behavioral sciences. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Sigg H, Falett J (1985) Experiments on respect of possession and property in hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas). Anim Behav 33:978–984Google Scholar
  39. Stevens EF (1988) Contests between bands of feral horses for access to fresh water: the resident wins. Anim Behav 36:1851–1853Google Scholar
  40. Thompson WL (1960) Agonistic behaviour in the house finch. Annual cycle and display patterns. Factors in aggressiveness and sociality. Condor 62:245–402Google Scholar
  41. Tordoff HB (1954) Social organization and behavior in a flock of captive, nonbreeding Red Crossbills. Condor 56:346–358Google Scholar
  42. Wilson EO (1975) Sociobiology. The new synthesis. Harvard Univ Press, Cambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  43. Yasukawa K, Bick EI (1983) Dominance hierarchies in darkeyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis): a test of game-theory model. Anim Behav 31:439–448Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. C. Senar
    • 1
  • M. Camerino
    • 1
  • N. B. Metcalfe
    • 2
  1. 1.Museu de ZoologiaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

Personalised recommendations