The active nightlife of diurnal birds: Extraterritorial forays and nocturnal activity patterns

Michael P. Ward, Mark Alessi, Thomas J. Benson, Scott J. Chiavacci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most birds are socially monogamous, diurnally active and have small home ranges. These birds occasionally undertake extraterritorial forays, presumably to seek extrapair copulations. We used automated radiotelemetry to examine nocturnal forays and activity of a diurnal, socially monogamous passerine, the yellow-breasted chat, Icterina virens. Males and females forayed during both day and night, but night forays were more common. In addition to varying between day and night, there were sex- and breeding-stage-specific differences in foraying behaviour. Males forayed more than females and more frequently when their female was not fertile. Conversely, females primarily forayed when fertile. We suggest that females foray at night to avoid detection, because their mate's knowledge of potential extrapair copulations may result in harassment or decreased parental care. Both sexes were nocturnally active; however, the activity of males peaked when their mates were fertile, probably to prevent their mates from foraying and guarding them from foraying males. The nocturnal behaviour of chats suggest that extraterritorial forays may be more common than previously thought and that nocturnal behaviours may be crucial for understanding the strategies males and females use to acquire extrapair copulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-184
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014


  • Cuckoldry
  • Extraterritorial foray
  • Home range
  • Icterina virens
  • Mate guarding
  • Nocturnal activity
  • Nocturnal movements
  • Yellow-breasted chat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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