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Territorial defence in the great tit (Parus major): Do residents always win?

Summary

I removed resident pairs of great tits from their territories for short periods and released them after replacement pairs had occupied the spaces. When two pairs are manipulated in this way into occupying the same territory an escalated contest ensures. Contests between residents and replacements are longer, more likely to involve physical fights and longer fights or displays than contests between established neighbours or residents and intruders. The degree of escalation between residents and replacements is an increasing function of replacement time. It rises to a peak and then diminishes again. The probability that the replacement will defeat the former resident is an increasing function of replacement time, reaching 90% after several days. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that territorial residents win in contests against intruders because of an asymmetry in payoff rather than an asymmetry in resource holding potential or an arbitary convention. A possibly asymmetry in payoff in the great tit is the cost of defending the territory against neighbours. The cost is higher for replacements than for residents.

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Krebs, J.R. Territorial defence in the great tit (Parus major): Do residents always win?. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 11, 185–194 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00300061

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Keywords

  • Payoff
  • Defend
  • Replacement Time
  • Territorial Defence
  • Replacement Pair