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Effects of supplemental food on the behaviour and paternity status of male Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea)

Posted on 11. June, 2018.

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Breeding is energetically costly and, if energy-limited, birds may alter their time budgets, spending less time engaged in some activities and more time in others. Investigators who have provided breeding birds with supplemental food have noted changes in time budgets, but the extent and types of changes have been found to vary among species. 

Our objective was to determine how food supplementation might influence the time budgets and paternity status of male Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea). We studied Indigo Buntings from 8 May to 15 August 2009 in Madison County, Kentucky. Territories of male Indigo Buntings (n=30) were randomly assigned as either food supplemented (n=8) or controls (n=22). During time-budget observations, all behaviours were noted. To determine paternity status, blood samples were collected from adults and nestlings at 16 nests. Males with feeders in their territories spent significantly less time foraging and more time vocalising (chip notes) than males without feeders. Time spent singing and mate guarding by treatment and control males did not differ. Differences in the proportion of extra-pair young did not differ between nests in territories with and without supplemental food. Our results suggest that, when provided with supplemental food, male Indigo Buntings spend less time foraging and more time engaged in other activities. However, neither the presence of supplemental food nor differences in the behaviour of males in food-supplemented versus non-supplemented territories affected rates of extra-pair paternity. 

Read the full article in Avian Biology Research.


Authors: Brad T. McLeod and Gary Ritchison*
Department of Biological Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky 40475, USA

Keywords: extra-pair young, foraging, mate guarding, Passerina cyanea, time budget

Image: Indigo Bunting by David Menke, US Fish and Wildlife Service.