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A comparison of the reproductive and behavioural differences in feral and domestic Japanese quail Nichols, Cathleen Rose


Aspects of reproduction of feral and domestic Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) were compared under a semi-natural setting: 1) the frequencies of courtship displays and mating behaviour with relation to age, time of day, and the female's laying cycle; 2) pair formation and maintenance; mate guarding, and extra-pair activities; 3) fecundity, hatchability, fertility, chick mortality, and duration of parent-chick association. All but two of the courtship displays and behavioural components reported in the literature were exhibited by both domestic Japanese quail and feral quail in this study. Two hitherto unreported displays (Dancing and Leading) were also observed performed by for both domestic and feral quail. Feral males crowed less than domestic males, but unlike the domestic males, varied their crowing frequency during the female’ s laying cycle. Domestic males performed fewer courtship displays, but copulated more frequently than feral males. Feral males were more aggressive towards both males and females than were domestic males. Domestic females, however, were significantly more aggressive towards males than were feral females. Display frequencies and mating behaviour were higher in the morning than afternoon, and higher in two-year old birds than in yearlings for both feral and domestic quail. Generally, feral males were paired with one female for the whole season, whereas domestic males had shorter pair bonds and frequently switched mates. Domestic males attempted proportionally more forced extra-pair copulations than feral males, and only associated closely with females when their eggs could be fertilized. Feral females produced one successful clutch per season and renested only if nesting was disrupted prior to incubation, while domestic females produced up to three clutches per season. Clutch size, hatchability, fertility, and chick mortality were similar for both feral and domestic quail. Facultative nest parasitism was seen for both feral and domestic quail. In this study domestic Japanese quail showed a behavioural repertoire much like feral quail. This suggests domestication was not "degenerative"; instead behavioural components may not be expressed in domestic conditions that lack the appropriate eliciting stimuli.

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