Courtship Disruption at the Lek in the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock


Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California 94118, U.S.A.

School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, U.S.A.


During 4 seasons of study at a large (55 male) lek of Guianan cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola) in Suriname, we observed 3906 female courtship visits. Of these, 1171 (30.0%) were disrupted by adult males, 430 (11.0%) were disrupted by yearling males, and 289 (7.4%) were disrupted by females. This is one of the highest levels of courtship disruption reported among lek-breeding birds. Disruption was performed by approximately half of the territorial adult males each year, spanning the full range of mating success and territory location.

Courtship disruption occurs in two contexts among adult male cock-of-the-rock. The most frequently performed disruptions were low-intensity supplantings and threats directed toward more successful territorial neighbors. These appear to reflect attempts to improve or maintain territorial status within the male social organization. Less commonly, individual males persistently directed high-intensity disruption toward specific females. Such males succeeded in redirecting the females' mate choice to themselves in 27% of instances. We found no support for the hypothesis that females choose males on the basis of their immunity to disruption. Reproductively successful males received disruption at proportionately equal or greater levels than unsuccessful males.

Courtship disruption by yearling cock-of-the-rock occurred primarily in the context of practice courtship by these non-territorial immatures. Disruption by females was uncommon and did not appear to deny or even delay access to any male.

We discuss these results in the light of recent proposals concerning the role of courtship disruption in the operation of mate choice and the determination of male dispersion on leks.