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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Behaviour and social organization during the breeding season in Mionectes oleagineus (Aves, Tyrannidae) Westcott, David Andrew


Mionectes oleagineus (Aves, Tyrannidae) is a small, sexually monomorphic, lek breeding bird. The behaviour and mating system of this species were studied on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula over two years. In this thesis I ask three questions: 1) What kind of social organization does M. oleagineus exhibit? 2) Does habitat influence male display dispersion? and 3) What is the function of song in attracting mates and in male-male interactions? In Chapter 2, I describe M. oleagineus' social organization. There were three categories of males: territory owners, satellites and floaters. The latter 2 categories were non-territorial and represented half of the male population. I describe interactions between displaying males and visitors to their territories, including courtship display and aggressive interactions between males. Male display dispersion was highly variable in the study area, including classical leks, in which territories shared contiguous boundaries, an exploded lek, where the territories did not share boundaries, and solitary display territories. In Chapter 3, I test the hypothesis that the number of males that can settle in an area, and their subsequent display dispersion, is determined by the availability and dispersion of suitable habitat. Discriminant function analysis of measures of vegetation structure from both territories and non-territory sample plots showed that territory habitat could be distinguished from non-territory habitat. Eleven percent of the sample plots were described as suitable habitat in the analysis. Given that half the male population is non-territorial, the existence of unoccupied, suitable habitat makes it unlikely that habitat availability determines the number of males settling, or their display dispersion. The major occupation of males on their display territories is singing. In Chapter 4, I investigate the function of song for M. oleagineus using behavioural observation and an experiment involving temporary muting. Males which sang at higher rates received more visitors of both sexes. The territories of most muted territorial males were rapidly usurped by other males. Two of the muted males regained their territories upon regaining the ability to sing. This study is the first to directly demonstrate a key role for song in male-male interactions on leks. It also provides evidence that females use song in mate assessment.

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