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Mate Switching and a Seasonal Increase in Polygyny in the Bananaquit

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The mating system of the bananaquit was studied during four breeding seasons on Grenada, W.I. Colorbanded individuals in three sites wer studied to determine the seasonal change in mating sytem, change in nest predation rates, response of females to nest predation, time lost in mate abandonment, and fledging success of both monogamous and polygynous males and females. Early in the breeding season, bananaquits are monogamous and breeding is synchronized with the rains. As breeding proceeds the nest predation rate increases. Females respond to nest predation by abandoning their mate and nest site and renesting elsewhere. The time available for mate or site selection by an abandoning female is constrained by the increasing rate of nest predation. If a female settles with a neighboring male the time loss in renesting is the same as if she remained with her original mate. However, if she moves further than 100 m the renesting time is greater. Females abandoning their mates following nest predation sometimes settle with males that are already mated; thus the incidence of polygyny increases during a period of asynchronous breeding at the end of the breeding season. Breeding with an already mated male might be possible only if his primary female has eggs or nestlings. During the five month breeding season a diversity of sexual bonds are formed, although many are unstable because of female abandonment of mate and nest site following nest predation. Monogamy was characteristic of synchronous breeding with the first rains of the wet season while polygyny was associated with asynchronous breeding later in the season. These findings are consistent with the predictions of EMLEN & ORING (1977) that the potential for males to accumulate females increases with the degree of asynchrony of sexual receptivity among females.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology & Behavioral Biology, J. F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, U.S.A.


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