Social organization in the pheasant (Phasianus colchicus): harem formation, mate selection and the role of mate guarding.

Author Ridley, M.W. & Hill, D.A.
Citation Ridley, M.W. & Hill, D.A. (1987). Social organization in the pheasant (Phasianus colchicus): harem formation, mate selection and the role of mate guarding. Journal of Zoology, London, 211: 619-630.

Abstract

Harem formation and mate selection were studied in the pheasant in order to determine the advantages of territorial harem defence polygyny to the two sexes. We investigated the factors affecting harem size and the advantage to a female in remaining with one territorial male during breeding.

Female group size declined during late March and early April as females moved from large overlapping ranges into smaller, more widely dispersed breeding ranges. The proportion of female groups accompanied by males increased during this period.

Some males had a disproportionate share of females. Settled females were monogamous but, because a female's nest was generally outside the male's territory, her home range was larger than his territory.

Harem members were usually from the same winter group. Harem size was not related to territory quality in terms of food supply or nesting cover. Females were loyal to one male in more than one year even if his territory position changed. Older, territory-owning males had more females, both adult and immature, than males with newly-established territories. Harem size was not correlated with territory size.

We conclude that the mating system of the pheasant is based on mate guarding which protects females not only from the risk of predation or injury, but also from excessive energy expenditure incurred through being chased by other males. When escorted by a territorial male, females spent three times as much time feeding, one-fifth as much time running, and one-tenth as much time alert, as they did when not guarded.

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