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The functional significance of multiple nest-building in the Australian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus australis
journal contributionposted on 2006-01-01, 00:00 authored by Mathew BergMathew Berg, N Beintema, J Welbergen, J Komdeur
The vast majority of bird species build a nest in which to breed. Some species build more than one nest, but the function of most multiple nest-building remains unclear. Here we describe the unusual nest-building behaviour of the Australian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus australis, and test experimentally the hypotheses that multiple nest-building is related to individual condition or territory quality, and plays a role in mate assessment. Australian Reed Warblers built two types of nest structures: 'type I' nests, which were used for eggs and nestlings, and 'type II' nests, which were structurally distinct from type I nests, did not support eggs, nestlings or adults and were not essential for successful breeding. The number of type II nests built in each territory varied. Type II nests were only built before breeding had commenced in a territory and females were not observed participating in their construction, supporting a role in female mate choice. Birds provided with supplementary food built significantly more type II nests than control birds. However, supplementary-fed birds did not have greater pairing success, and the addition of further type II nests to territories did not increase the pairing rate or type II nest construction in those territories. There was no relationship between the presence of type II nests and either reproductive success or likelihood of nest predation. We discuss the implications of these results in light of previous suggestions regarding the function of multiple nest-building in birds.