Nest defence as shareable paternal care in red-winged blackbirds

Patrick J. Weatherhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the costs to female birds of mating polygynously is having to share the parental care provided by their mate. Nest defence, however, is one form of paternal care that females mated to the same male should be able to share. In this study there was no difference in the defence of primary and secondary nests by male red-winged blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus. Nests that were provisioned by males were not defended more aggressively than nests that were not provisioned. Nests that were successful had been defended more aggressively by males than those that failed, indicating that male nest defence is valuable to females. These results suggest that male nest defence is entirely shareable, in contrast to a recent study that showed males preferentially defended nests of primary females (Knight & Temple, Condor, 1988, 90, 193-200). Although the study design used here more realistically reflects natural nest defence (males had to defend one nest at a time rather than having to choose which of two nests to defend), it does not explain why males preferentially defended certain nests when forced to make a choice but not when defending nests one at a time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1173-1178
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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