Flexibility but no coordination of visits in provisioning riflemen

Nyil Khwaja*, Stephanie A.J. Preston, Ben J. Hatchwell, James V. Briskie, Isabel S. Winney, James L. Savage

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Parental care strategies occupy a continuum from fixed investments that are consistent across contexts to flexible behaviour that largely depends on external social and environmental cues. Determining the flexibility of care behaviour is important, as it influences the outcome of investment games between multiple individuals caring for the same brood. We investigated the repeatability of provisioning behaviour and the potential for turn taking among breeders and helpers in a cooperatively breeding bird, the rifleman, Acanthisitta chloris. First, we examined whether nest visit rate is an accurate measure of investment by assessing whether carers consistently bring the same size of food, and whether food size is related to nest visit rate. Our results support the use of visit rate as a valid indicator of parental investment. Next, we calculated the repeatability of visit rate and food size to determine whether these behaviours are fixed individual traits or flexible responses to particular contexts. We found that riflemen were flexible in visit rate, supporting responsive models of care over ‘sealed bids’. Finally, we used runs tests to assess whether individual riflemen alternated visits with other carers, indicative of turn taking. We found little evidence of any such coordination of parental provisioning. We conclude that individual flexibility in parental care appears to arise through factors such as breeding status and brood demand, rather than as a real-time response to social partners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-31
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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