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Habitat selection and polygyny in breeding Corn Buntings Miliaria calandra

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/1995
<mark>Journal</mark>Ibis
Issue number4
Volume137
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)508-514
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Unlike many other polygynous passerine species, female Corn Buntings Miliaria calandra apparently do not suffer costs by pairing polygynously, yet it is unclear whether this is because polygynous males hold the highest quality territories or because pairing with polygynous males is unimportant in determining female reproductive success. Male Corn Buntings on North Uist, Scotland, consistently defended territories which contained nesting habitat, and females often foraged outside male territories when provisioning nestlings. Females showed strong preferences for nesting in uncultivated land, and 80% of nests were under Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium, possibly because this provided cover against predation and the weather. When provisioning nestlings, females showed strong preferences for foraging in cereal crops, probably because this habitat provided better food resources and/or better cover from predators. Males were unpaired or paired with one to three females per breeding season, but variation in territory size or vegetation composition did not explain differences in the number of females paired with individual males. We suggest that when females neither gain benefits nor suffer costs by breeding polygynously, and males do not differ greatly in the areas of habitat selected, polygyny can arise through random female settlement within the nesting habitat.