Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 10, pp 1589–1600 | Cite as

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

  • Juan C. Alonso
  • Marina Magaña
  • Carlos Palacín
  • Carlos A. Martín
Original Paper


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.


Age Great bustard Lek Mating success Sexual selection 



We thank J.A. Alonso for his collaboration during bird captures and aerial location of marked birds. S.J. Lane, E. Martín, and M. Morales provided additional help during captures and J.C. Orellana and B. Martín during tracking. We are especially grateful to the 42 Group of the Spanish Air Forces for their generous collaboration in locating radio-tagged birds. Jacqueline K. Augustine and an anonymous reviewer gave helpful comments on a previous draft of the manuscript. This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry for Science and Technology (projects PB97-1252 and BOS2002-01543). M.M. benefited from a predoctoral fellowship of the CSIC-MNCN-CAM (1998-2002).

Ethical standards

The procedures followed in this study comply with the current Spanish laws.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan C. Alonso
    • 1
  • Marina Magaña
    • 1
  • Carlos Palacín
    • 1
  • Carlos A. Martín
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSICMadridSpain
  2. 2.Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)Ciudad RealSpain

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