The relative influence of prey abundance and co-breeders on the reproductive performance of polyandrous Pale Chanting-goshawks

  • Gerard Malan Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa<br>Present address: Department of Nature Conservation, Tshwane University of Technology, Private Bag X680, Pretoria 0001, South Africa


This study investigates if the reproductive performance of polyandrous Pale Chanting-goshawks, Melierax canorus, is governed by the abundance of dominant rodent-prey species or a co-breeding male participating fully in prey being delivered to the female and young. Polyandrous trios in prey-rich habitat, the only habitat where these trios occurred, failed to produce more offspring than monogamous pairs, but attempted more second broods in years of high prey abundance. The higher the prey-delivering rates at the nesting sites by either one monogamous male or two polyandrous males (combined effort), the higher the proportion of time their females spent in close proximity to the nest. Since there were no significant differences between the body masses of nestlings fledged by polyandrous and monogamous groups, higher delivery rates relieved females from away-from-the-nest hunting duties and permitted them to feed on prey not fed to offspring. Although breeding in polyandrous trios held fitness benefits for females, e.g. to accumulate the necessary body reserves for laying a second clutch in years of high prey abundance, it is still not clear how males benefited. The reproductive performance of each group was strongly linked to the abundance of the dominant, otomyine rodent prey (Otomys unisulcatus and Parotomys brantsii) and it was therefore prey abundance, and not the number of males delivering prey to the female and nestlings at each nesting site, that controlled the reproductive performance of cooperative-breeding Pale Chanting-goshawks.

Ostrich 2004, 75(1&2): 44–51

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-947X
print ISSN: 0030-6525