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Comparison of the mating systems and breeding behavior of a resident and a migratory tropical flycatcher

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Little is known about the genetic mating systems of tropical passerines and how they vary among species. We studied the Lesser Elaenia (Elaenia chiriquensis) and the Yellow-bellied Elaenia (E. flavogaster) near Gamboa, Panama. These species breed in the same habitat, but Lesser Elaenias are intratropical migrants with seasonal territories and Yellow-bellied Elaenias are permanent residents that remain paired and defend territories throughout the year. Lesser Elaenias exhibited greater breeding synchrony (15–18 %) than Yellow-bellied Elaenias (9–10%). For Lesser Elaenias, 10 of 15 (67%) nests contained extra-pair young and 14 of 38 (37%) young resulted from extra-pair fertilizations (EPFs). In contrast, only one extra-pair nestling (4%, N= 24 nestlings) was found in 13 Yellow-bellied Elaenia nests. Neither species exhibited strong mate guarding. The higher rate of EPFs in Lesser Elaenias is consistent with the hypothesis that year-round territorial tropical passerines with low breeding synchrony have little or no extra-pair behavior compared with species that breed seasonally. Although the low singing rates of Lesser Elaenias (7 songs/h) suggest that this not an important cue for female extra-pair mate choice, the role of conspicuous male dawn song remains to be investigated. Further studies of tropical passerines are needed to help disentangle the effects of synchrony, density, and other ecological and behavioral factors that have influenced the evolution of extra-pair mating systems in passerines.

Keywords: Elaenia chiriquensis; Elaenia flavogaster; Lesser Elaenia; Yellow-bellied Elaenia; breeding synchrony; extra-pair fertilizations; nesting behavior; song rates

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Biology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada

Publication date: March 1, 2007


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