Long-term mate and territory fidelity in neotropical buff-breasted wrens (Thryothorus leucotis)

Abstract

Among sedentary species, mate and site fidelity may be imposed by year-round territoriality and high annual survivorship, both of which theoretically lead to few opportunities to move between mates and breeding territories. We examined mate and territory fidelity in sedentary neotropical buff-breasted wrens (Thryothorus leucotis) in relation to the opportunities to divorce (vacancies on neighbouring territories), breeding experience and site of origin (within vs outside local breeding population). Overall, buff-breasted wrens showed high rates of mate and territory fidelity between years, with individuals significantly more faithful to their territories than to their partners. Mate and territory fidelity was not forced upon buff-breasted wrens, as most individuals had opportunities to switch mates and territories. However, this was not uniform among all individuals. Individuals that had bred together displayed 100% mate and territory fidelity despite the fact that males and females in almost all experienced pairs had opportunities to switch mates and territories. Local recruits (philopatric offspring that acquired territories in the local breeding population) also displayed mate and territory fidelity, but fidelity occurred because recruits rarely had the opportunity to divorce prior to initiating their first breeding attempt. By contrast, almost half of all territorial individuals that originated outside the local breeding population (immigrants) had opportunity to divorce, with approximately two thirds of them switching mates and territories. Divorces occurred within the first 5 months of pairing, suggesting that immigrants may have sampled mates and territories before forming permanent partnerships.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente for permitting us to work in Panama, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for excellent logistical support, and E.C. Edwards, M.A. Mico and M.J. Vonhof for assistance in the field. We thank K. Thorup for help with some statistical analysis. D. Heg and an anonymous reviewer made excellent comments on the manuscript. 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 S.A.G.; Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada to B.J.M.S.; and Smithsonian Institution to E.S. Morton and B.J.M.S. We conducted this research under the approval of the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, Panama, and the Canadian Council of Animal Care.

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Correspondence to Sharon A. Gill.

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Communicated by I. Hartley

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Gill, S.A., Stutchbury, B.J.M. Long-term mate and territory fidelity in neotropical buff-breasted wrens (Thryothorus leucotis). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 61, 245–253 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-006-0255-4

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Keywords

  • Divorce
  • Mate choice
  • Mate-switching opportunities
  • Year-round territoriality