Ideal dominance distributions: a test using red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Christopher G. Eckert, Patrick J. Weatherhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ideal dominance distribution model predicts that competition between individuals of a species for territories will result in socially dominant individuals acquiring territories in higher quality habitat than their subordinates. Although the dispersion and relative reproductive success of male red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) across habitats in eastern Ontario appears to conform to the ideal dominance distribution model, data from a study of three captive groups comprised of males from both high (marsh) and low (upland field) quality habitats failed to support the prediction that males from marsh habitat are dominant to those from upland habitat. Contrary to the prediction males from uplands were generally dominant to males from marshes. We found a significant positive correlation between dominance and both increased epaulet size and increased body size. Controlling for these positive effects, upland males remained generally dominant to marsh males. Measurements of independent samples of males from both habitats indicated that the overall distribution of males does not conform to ideal dominance. We suggest that the strong between-year territory fidelity shown by male red-winged blackbirds and chance events when they initially acquire territories may contribute to this lack of conformity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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