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Oecologia

, Volume 77, Issue 2, pp 278–285 | Cite as

Factors promoting polygyny in European birds of prey—a hypothesis

  • Erkki Korpimäki
Original Papers

Summary

Polygyny is known in at least nine (out of 36) European raptor (Accipitriformes and Falconiformes) and seven (out of 13) owl (Strigiformes) species that hunt mobile prey. The hypothesis put forward here suggests that abundant food supply and nomadic tactics of breeding dispersal are crucial factors promoting polygyny in birds of prey. The hypothesis predicts that: (1) polygyny is more common in rodent-eating birds of prey than in bird-eating ones; (2) polygyny is more frequent in good vole years than in poor ones; (3) the frequency of polygyny in vole-eating species should increase northwards in Europe, as the densities of voles in the peak phase increase in that direction; (4) the frequency of polygyny and harem size should be increased by supplementary feeding; and (5) polygyny is more common in nomadic birds of prey with annual pair bonds and weak territoriality than in resident birds of prey with longerterm pair bonds and stronger territoriality. A majority of the available data is consistent with predictions 1–3 and 5, but data on prediction 4 are scanty. Further studies on ringed birds of prey are needed to test the validity of the hypothesis.

Key words

Polygyny Raptor Owl Food supply Nomadism 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erkki Korpimäki
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland

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