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Behavioural Transitions in the Reproductive Cycle of Barbary Doves (Streptopelia Risoria L.)

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The pre-oviposition phase of the reproductive cycle of the male Barbary dove is characterized by a series of behavioural transitions which lead to construction of a nest and incubation behaviour. The present study provides a detailed account of the early courtship phase of 14 pairs of male and female Barbary doves, given continuous access to one another, and analyses the temporal relationships between transitions in male and female courtship. Male aggressive courtship, consisting of chasing and bowing, declines rapidly within the first day of pairing and virtually disappears by the second or third day. In contrast, substantial levels of nest soliciting, a nest-orientated activity, continue to be displayed until the fifth day of pairing. There is, therefore, a differential rate of decline of early courtship patterns of the male such that the time spent in nest soliciting increases relative to that of aggressive courtship. A succession of further transitions takes place in the behaviour of the male. Thus, the male begins to display nest sitting at the future nest site on the second day of pairing. This behaviour reaches a peak on the third day of pairing and continues to be displayed until the seventh day of pairing; a period which is on average similar to the latency to oviposition (median, 7.0 days). The male also begins to gather nesting material on the second or third day of pairing and this continues until oviposition. Male transitions are accompanied by a series of comparable transitions in the female which are not in phase with those of the male. Thus, the female begins to display nest soliciting, similar to that of the male, on the first day of pairing, this reaches a peak on the second day of pairing and disappears on the fourth day. Female nest soliciting is replaced by nest sitting, which reaches a peak of display on the sixth day of pairing and continues until oviposition. The female also begins to build the nest on the second or third day of the interaction and accepts the greatest number of pieces of nesting material two days before oviposition. Male aggressive courtship appears to influence the female both in terms of subsequent behavioural transitions and reproductive development. Thus the duration of bowing shown during the initial interaction is positively correlated with latency to oviposition. Similarly, the latency to termination of both chasing and bowing is directly related to the onset of female nest sitting and the latency to oviposition. These correlations support the view that male aggressiveness may delay female behavioural and reproductive development.

Affiliations: 1: MRC Unit on the Development and Integration of Behaviour, University Sub-Department, Madingley, Cambridge, England

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