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Displays Facilitating Sociability in Waxbills of the Genera Estrilda and Lagonosticta (Fam. Estrildidae)

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The present work deals with displays which serve to facilitate sociability in the two waxbill genera Estrilda and Lagonosticta. Of the latter, two species are discussed in comparison with the species of Estrilda because of their more primitive characters. Of Estrilda, nine of the thirteen species were observed in aviaries in Europe over a period of several years. A two years stay in the Eastern Congo has given opportunity to study five of these and one other species as well as the two species of Lagonosticta under field and aviary conditions. Birds of the two Lagonosticta and of the five species of the subgenera Estrilda and Melpoda of the genus Estrilda give a display to conspecifics not fully accustomed to, which consists of weakly ritualised locomotory intention movements, twisting of the tail, and interposed bill wiping. This 'curtseying' is accompanied by contact notes only in Lagonosticta and the ♀♀ of the species of Estrilda mentioned while the ♂ ♂ of these give low stages of song which may serve for sex recognition. Curtseying is also given as greeting between mates, but always without the low stages of song. The four other subgenera of Estrilda - Glaucestrilda, Brunhilda, Krimhilda, and Neisna - have developed strongly ritualised and conspicuous displays from curtseying, either the locomotory intention movements with or without the bill wipes into 'nodding', or the bill wipes alone into 'bowing'. In Krimhilda nodding has become again very rare and is mostly replaced by curtseying again. ♂♂ of Glaucestrilda and Neisna give full song during the display in front of strange conspecifics, ♀♀ are silent then or give contact calls. Curtseying, nodding, and bowing function to overcome the conflict between agonistic and sexual tendencies aroused by a conspecific not fully accustomed to, and to signal the readiness for social relations. They are the more ritualised in the genus Estrilda, the less social the species is, i.e. the stronger the conflict, aroused by strange conspecifics, is. The weak ritualisation of the curtseying of Lagonosticta may be due to the strong sexual dimorphism of these birds which probably facilitates already itself the inition of social and sexual relations between birds of different sex. In Lagonosticta, mated ♂ ♂, if confronted with new strange ♀♀ , rape them. The motivation of this behaviour is supposed to be strongly aggressive besides the obvious sexual tendencies. Mated ♂♂ of the subgenera Estrilda and Melpoda, on the other hand, try to rape only the ♀♀ of their flock which are not mated to them, but known to them personally. But the attempt to rape is always preceded by a highly ritualised display called here 'fluffed singing' which is predominantly composed of elements of the courtship display. It warns the ♀ for the intentions of the displaying ♂ and gives her time to flee. By this, fluffed singing serves to avoid the damage that would be done by the raping ♂♂ within a flock, and enables the flock to keep together in spite of the rape intentions of the ♂ ♂. In the other four subgenera of Estrilda, nothing comparable to rape and fluffed singing exists. Both types of display are shown to be valuable taxonomic characters in Estrilda, and a diagram of the relationship of the species of this genus is given. Finally, the two types of displays are compared with similar ones of other estrildid finches.

Affiliations: 1: LR.S.A.C., Lwiro, Bukavu, Rép. Dém. du Congo


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