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Benefits of Courtship-Feeding for Rifleman (Acanthisitta Chloris) Parents

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1. Courtship-feeding was studied in riflemen (Acanthisitta chloris) in a population at Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand between 1982 and 1984. The proportion of the food males collected which was donated to his mate was calculated and what proportion of the female's diet this represented. This information revealed that males made a significant early season contribution to parental care. 2. Allied information collected during the pre-lay and egg-laying periods included the time to form eggs, laying interval and clutch size. 3. Courtship-feeding in riflemen involved no ceremony. 4. Copulation attempts did not correspond with bouts courtship-feeding or the peak of courtship-feeding. 5. Pairs spent 91.2% of daylight hours in each other's company, which facilitated coursthip-feeding. 6. Food items delivered in courtship-feeding were significantly larger than those eaten by males or females while foraging for themselves, and larger food items were consistently offered throughout the pre-laying and egg-laying periods. 7. The peak in the volume of food delivered to the female occurred about 3.5 days after the first egg was laid. 8. Overall the male contributed 42% of the food he gathered to the female and this comprised 35% of her total food intake. 9. Females fed themselves enough food to meet maintenance requirements and the extra required for oogenesis was received from the male through courtship-feeding and any reserves stored by the female. 10. Riflemen laid eggs every 48 hours which probably reduced peak energy demands during oogenesis. 11. Courtship-feeding was not associated with second clutches which were significantly smaller than the first clutch laid and reared in a season. 12. Incubation occurred after the last egg was laid but was sometimes delayed. During the delay courtship-feeding continued until incubation started. 13. Courtship-feeding represents a significant early season investment by male riflemen in their offspring which probably allows time to rear two broods thereby improving both parents' productivity. Such early season investment might influence sexual selection towards stable, monogamous pair bonds.

Affiliations: 1: Edward Percival Field Station, University of Canterbury, Kaikoura, New Zealand


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