Polar Biology

, Volume 32, Issue 11, pp 1649–1656 | Cite as

The effects of male mating behaviour and food provisioning on breeding success in snow buntings Plectrophenax nivalis in the high Arctic

  • Katrine S. Hoset
  • Yngve Espmark
  • Marie Lier
  • Tommy Haugan
  • Morten I. Wedege
  • Arne Moksnes
Original Paper


For passerine birds breeding in the Arctic, paternal effort in parental care is necessary for successful breeding. Behavioural strategies, such as mate guarding, to ensure paternity should therefore also be common in this environment. In order to investigate the relation between such behaviour and breeding success, when controlling for the effect of environmental factors, we recorded male mate-guarding behaviour, parental effort and breeding success amongst snow buntings, Plectrophenax nivalis, in the high Arctic environment of Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Mate-guarding intensity tended to positively affect male feeding frequency per nestling in one of the study years, negatively in 1 year and without effect in the 3rd year. The negative effect in 1999 was strong, but variation in estimates of the 2 other years was high and the effect of mate guarding may be negligible in these 2 years. We assume that this pattern might be related to yearly variation in the prevalence of extra-pair young. Male food provisioning was not positively related to breeding success, but late breeders had higher breeding success than early breeders. Thus, the effect of male mate guarding is highly variable and mainly affects food provisioning rates, but the benefit for total breeding success seems to be marginal, at best.


Mate guarding Male provisioning Breeding success Arctic climate Snow bunting Plectrophenax nivalis 



This study was undertaken as a part of a research project under The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters’ Foundation (DKNVSS). It was funded by this Foundation (grant to YE) and the Norwegian Research Council (student grant to KSH, TH, MIW and ML). The University Centre on Svalbard (UNIS) provided some logistical support. Furthermore, we are indebted to Rolf Langvatn for logistical support during our stay in Longyearbyen. We also thank Eva Hofstad for assistance in the field and Bård G. Stokke for constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrine S. Hoset
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yngve Espmark
    • 1
  • Marie Lier
    • 1
  • Tommy Haugan
    • 1
  • Morten I. Wedege
    • 1
  • Arne Moksnes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNUTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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