Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary This study investigated whether reduced male aid in defending offspring potentially reduces the fitness of females choosing already-mated males in the house wren (Troglodytes aedon), a small, territorial songbird. Frozen snakes were placed at 23 nests of monogamously mated males and 12 “secondary” nests of bigamously mated males. All presentations were made during incubation stages of females attending focal nests. Snakes were placed at nests of secondary females when nests of their primary counterparts contained young 5–9 days old. Males are most attentive to primary nests during this period and should therefore be relatively inattentive to secondary mates and nests. Nevertheless, an equal proportion of monogamous and bigamous males discovered snakes within 15 min, and mean time to discovery, when discovery occurred, did not differ with nest status. Monogamous and bigamous males were also equally likely to attack snakes physically once discovered. Monogamous males appeared no more likely to discover snakes than bigamous males for two main reasons. First, although monogamous males were near focal nests (i.e., 〈 10 m) more often than bigamous males, monogamous males tended to stay out of view of nests for long periods. In contrast, bigamous males always went immediately to focal nests upon arriving in their vicinity. Second, about one-third of monogamous males in this study spent much of their time during trials at the far edges of their territories advertising for secondary mates. Our experiment suggests that reduced male aid in defending nests against small, diurnal predators probably does not contribute to the cost of polygyny in house wrens.
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