Microgeographic Prediction of Polygyny in the Lark Bunting

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Science  08 Sep 1978:
Vol. 201, Issue 4359, pp. 935-937
DOI: 10.1126/science.201.4359.935


Field experiments on breeding populations of lark buntings (Calamospiza melanocorys) in South Dakota support the hypothesis that polygyny is promoted by a high variance in quality among male territories. Among these birds protection of the nest site from solar radiation is the major indicator of quality: nestling survival was significantly correlated with nest-site cover, and experimental increase of shading resulted in higher reproductive success. Males with superior territories attracted two mates, whereas those with poor territories failed to attract any. Secondary females had fledging success at least equal to that of contemporaneous monogamous pairs. On the sole basis of a shading score for each territory, the mating status of males (polygynous, monogamous, or bachelor) was predicted accurately in new areas of Colorado and North Dakota before females arrived.