There are few empirical tests of the acoustic mate-guarding hypothesis for the function of duetting in birds. This hypothesis states that when females are fertile, males initiate many songs or answer most of their mates’ solo songs to form duets and repel rival males seeking extra-pair copulations. We tested the hypothesis by comparing song initiation and answer rates of males and females in socially monogamous buff-breasted wrens (Throthorus leucotis) during pre-fertile and fertile periods. During pre-fertile periods, males often sang for short periods before being answered by their mates, yet first duets were formed earlier relative to dawn and more duets were given during the dawn chorus on pre-fertile than fertile mornings. Males initiated more songs during pre-fertile than fertile periods, whereas there was no difference between stages in female song initiation rates. The proportion of songs answered by individuals of both sexes did not differ between breeding stages. Other mate-guarding behaviours, such as frequent copulation and maintaining close proximity to mates when fertile, did not appear to be important in this species, as no copulations were observed and there was no difference in the time pairs spent in close proximity when females were fertile or not. Parentage analysis revealed that only 3% of 31 broods had young that were likely the result of extra-pair paternity. These findings do not support the acoustic mate-guarding hypothesis, and suggest that the low rate of extra-pair paternity in buff-breasted wrens was maintained without the use of acoustic or traditional paternity guards.
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This study was supported by research grants and scholarships from the American Ornithologists’ Union, American Museum of Natural History, Animal Behavior Society, Ontario Graduate Scholarships, Sigma Xi, and York University to SAG, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada to M.J.V., B.J.M.S. and J.S.Q., and Smithsonian Institution to E.S.M. and B.J.M.S. We are most grateful to the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente for permitting us to work in Panama. We thank the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for excellent logistical support, E.C. Edwards and M.A. Mico for assistance in the field, L. De Sousa for performing the laboratory work, and B. Woolfenden for help with the paternity analysis. For helpful discussion of ideas, we thank the Hau and Wikelski laboratories at Princeton University. We also thank R. Gibson, D. Logue, and two anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the manuscript.
Communicated by R. Gibson
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Gill, S.A., Vonhof, M.J., Stutchbury, B.J.M. et al. No evidence for acoustic mate-guarding in duetting buff-breasted wrens (Thryothorus leucotis). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 57, 557–565 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-004-0893-3
- Acoustic mate-guarding
- Breeding synchrony