Wild zebra finches choose neighbours for synchronized breeding

Hanja B. Brandl*, Simon C. Griffith, Wiebke Schuett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Organisms should aim to time their reproduction to match the optimal ecological conditions and thus maximize their fitness. However, social cues have been identified as determinants of reproductive decisions and might also be involved in coordinating the timing of reproduction. Breeding synchronously with other individuals can bring several advantages, including a reduced individual predation risk and an increased opportunity for social foraging. The behavioural mechanisms underlying reproductive synchrony are versatile and not well understood, particularly in species inhabiting unpredictable environments. In contrast to highly seasonal environments, more variable and unpredictable environments can support periods of extended breeding with lower levels of synchronous breeding overall, but opportunities for individuals to breed synchronously at a finer temporal and spatial scale. Zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, are a highly social species, naturally inhabiting the ecologically unpredictable arid zone of Australia. In the wild, reproduction at a broad population level is not highly synchronized and, at any time during a period of breeding activity, reproductive attempts can be found at different stages. However, previous work has suggested that at a finer spatial scale neighbours tend to breed at approximately the same time. Using nestboxes, we tested whether wild zebra finches preferentially seek to settle and initiate a breeding attempt adjacent to conspecifics at an early stage of breeding (nest building), as opposed to others at later stages of breeding and with which the opportunity to breed synchronously was reduced or absent. Pairs were more likely to initiate egg laying in nestboxes close to conspecifics at an early stage of breeding, suggesting that they do try to maximize the level of synchronicity with neighbours. Our results indicate the importance of social effects on both the phenology and spatial distribution of breeding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-28
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume151
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

Keywords

  • colonial breeding
  • nest prospecting
  • nest synchronization
  • reproductive timing
  • social information
  • Taeniopygia guttata
  • unpredictable conditions

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