Tactics, effectiveness and avoidance of mate guarding in the blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii)

Diana Pérez-Staples*, Hugh Drummond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


We examined the dynamics and avoidance of mate guarding, by males and females, in the blue-footed booby, in which the two social mates are usually simultaneously present on the territory but each of them is unmonitored by the other for one-quarter of its time. Both sexes were promiscuous and liable to switch mates. Cuckolded individuals did not increase their overall presence on the territory, but in response to the extra-pair (EP) courtships of their mates, both sexes doubled their rate of intra-pair (IP) courtship and sometimes showed aggression. The male or female's presence depressed the social mate's EP activity, but intra-pair courtship had no such effect, tending even to propitiate that EP activity. Similarly, when females responded to their social mates' EP courtship with approach or aggression, disruption of EP activity was short-lived. Promiscuous females modified their diurnal pattern of attendance, as if attempting to sidestep monitoring by their mates, but cuckolded males matched the modification. Both sexes tended to perform their EP activities at a distance when their mates were present, possibly to evade monitoring or disruption by their mates. Male and female boobies cannot monitor their mates continuously, they do little to facultatively adjust their presence on territory to the risk of infidelity, and their immediate responses to overt infidelity have only the briefest impact; but the information they acquire while monitoring their mates may be critical to constraining their mates' infidelity and also to calibrating their own reproductive investment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-123
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


  • Extra-pair activity
  • Mate guarding
  • Sula nebouxii


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