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Hostile, Sexual, and Other Social Behaviour Patterns of the Spice Finch (Lonchura Punctulata) in Captivity

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Three main groups of social reactions, commonly observed in captive Spice Finches, are the main subjects of this paper. The first group comprises a number of patterns reflecting the Spice Finch's highly gregarious nature and often helping to maintain flock integration: Call Notes, Tail-flicking (a ritualized locomotory intention movement), clumping (roosting or sitting absolutely side by side), and social preening. The Spice Finch's general social behaviour suggests that the gregariousness of the species is due to some motivation partially independent of any other possibly activated tendencies. The same may be true of the marked restlessness shown in the early mornings throughout the year. The second group contains many hostile activities : attack, escape, and patterns obviously produced by a simultaneous conflict or combination of attack and escape motivations. Among these last, several stretch postures are particularly interesting : the fact that each of them may frequently occur just before attack, just before escape and in numerous intermediate situations indicates that they are all ambivalent locomotory intention movements similar to one another in every respect except orientation. Another pattern resulting from simultaneously activated attack and escape tendencies, the Ruffle, is a ritualized display. This pattern bears some physical resemblance to friendly social preening invitation and it is tentatively suggested that it helps to avert attack by means of this resemblance. Despite the occasional frequency of Ruffling, and the rarer appearance of certain vocal patterns, Spice Finch hostile behaviour is much less ritualized than that of many other species. This paucity of ritualization, with the accompanying sombreness of plumage and weakness of voice, is probably correlated with the extreme gregariousness - which has probably reduced the need for behaviour patterns conspicuous over long distances. The third group, much the most heterogeneous, comprises sexual activities and other activities more or less closely associated with sexual performances. One such pattern, the masculine Jingle (reminiscent of, but functionally unlike, the "true" or "advertising" song of other passerines), is also common in non-sexual situations, and must, again, have some largely independent motivation. Typical and atypical behaviour before, during, and after copulation itself is described in some detail. The pre-copulatory sequence of patterns is almost always elaborate, including unritualized ambivalent postures and movements, ritualized displays, and (possibly) one conventional displacement activity. Another striking pre-copulatory performance, playing with nest-material, seems to result from a type of "spark-over" or "re-routing" of motivation very different from the "spark-over" responsible for conventional displacement activities. This pre-copulatory nest-building is not produced by a surplus of motivation (as would be the case in conventional conflict or thwarting), but apparently, instead, by an insufficiency of sexual motivation, too weak to be expressed in overt sexual acts. The theoretical advantages of such an arrangement are very great. The actual copulation is quick and simple, but there are violent post-copulatory performances. The whole series of patterns before, during, and after copulation can be understood as the result, in both sexes, of simultaneously activated attack, escape, and sexual tendencies of varying strengths, with, in the male, an added simultaneous Jingling tendency.

Affiliations: 1: (Dept. of Conservation, Cornell University; Dept. of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, Oxford


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