Absence of Mate Guarding in the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)?


Department of Zoology, Uppsala University, Box 561, S-75122 Uppsala.


The mate guarding behaviour of male yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) was studied with special reference to the effects of age, body size (tarsus length) and coloration of males. Measurements of intra-pair distance do at the most provide evidence for relatively lax mate guarding. On the other hand, patterns of male song activity and inter-male aggression were more in agreement with the predictions of the mate guarding hypothesis. The reasons for the comparatively low mate guarding intensity in the yellowhammer may be that males do not need to guard their mates intensely. Age differences were found in song and aggressive activity, older males singing and fighting the most. Size had no effect on guarding behaviour. Coloration was correlated with inter-male aggressiveness and conflict initiation propensity. Less colourful males fought the most in the pre-fertile period of their mates, whereas colourful and old males fought the most during the fertile period. This suggests that coloration may be an indicator of individual fighting and guarding ability.