Filmed episodes of social display in the Chilean teal were analysed in order to throw light on the function of social display in surface-feeding ducks and the role the female plays in this activity. Four different methods were used to study the associations between different behaviour patterns in several individuals. It appears that the behaviour patterns comprising social display fall into three groups which are described as “attention getting”, “close-range” and aggressive. It is proposed that social display allows unpaired males to attract the attention of females in an attempt to establish a pair-bond through the use of the “close-range” behaviour patterns. This forces paired males to compete in “attention-getting” behaviour patterns. Aggression results from this competition and from the threatening presence of unpaired males when the paired males try to strengthen their pair-bonds with the use of the “close-range” behaviour patterns.
Females play an influential role as their behaviour links the “attention-getting” behaviour with the “close-range” and aggressive behaviour. Their “close-range” behaviour suppresses that of other females.