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Abstract

The relationship between dominance and throat badge size, body size, and body condition was examined in three small island populations of house sparrows, Passer domesticus, on the coast of northern Norway. Individual dominance rank in males was determined by observation of agonistic interactions in an artificial observation cage (one replicate in Dec. and one in Mar. in two populations and one replicate in Mar. in the third population). Previous studies had indicated that badge size signals status in house sparrows. In this study, because of the small population sizes and stability in their membership, we expected that prior information about fighting ability would reduce the importance of badge size for the outcome of conflicts in favour of traits most directly associated with fighting ability. In two of five replicates, significant relationships were found between components of body size and dominance rank, but in opposite directions. The relationship between badge size and dominance rank was consistently positive, but non-significant. In a pooled sample of the three independent replicates, badge size was the best predictor of dominance, and no other variable explained any variance in dominance. However, the coefficient of determination was low and linearity of dominance hierarchies was poor. We therefore suggest that individual recognition may influence the dominance relationships.