Alternative models of territorial polygyny in birds

W. A. Searcy, K. Yasukawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Proposes a set of models for the explanation of territorial polygyny, outlines general methods for testing the models, and applies the tests in detail to 4 species. In all species, polygyny seems to be based on female choice rather than on male coercion. For red-winged blackbirds Agelaius phoeniceus, evidence indicates that mating with already-mated males is not costly to females. Polygyny in this species is probably best explained by models in which polygyny either has a net benefit or has no cost or benefit to females and in which the degree of polygyny is increased by female choice based on territory quality. In pied flycatchers, Ficedula hypoleuca, polygynous mating does seem to be costly to females. We can reject models in which females are forced to pay the cost because of a skewed sex ratio and those in which females are compensated for the cost. Polygyny in pied flycatcher is explained by models in which females pay a cost of polygynous mating for which they receive no compensation; discrimination among cost no-compensation models is difficult. Evidence regarding whether polygyny is costly to females is less conclusive in the other species examined, but what evidence there is supports a cost in marsh wrens Cistothorus palustris, and no cost in yellow-headed blackbirds Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus. No one model explains territorial polygyny in all species with this system. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-343
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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