Cheating budgies do it out of sight
New Scientist, 07 June 1997
budgerigar is far more likely to be tempted into an illicit affair when
out of sight of his vengeful mate, say scientists from New York. They
suspect that males want to avoid getting into trouble with their
partnersor even being dumped altogether.
Aliza Baltz and Anne
Clark, behavioural ecologists at Binghamton University in New York, say
that budgies (Melopsittacus undulatus) usually live in stable pairs
when raising their young. During the breeding season, males bring home
the food while females guard the fledglings in the nest.
and Clark studied 13 pairs of budgies as they were starting to breed.
They watched each pair interact in the home cage for 30 minutes, then
put the male in a cage about 1 metre away. Next to the male's cage,
behind a screen, was a caged female he had not yet met.
researchers then gave each male two chances to interact with the new
femaleonce while under the stern eye of his mate, and once while she
was concealed behind a screen. Baltz and Clark recorded the number of
times the males engaged in bouts of head-bobbing, their distinctive
courting behaviour. It turned out that almost three-quarters of the
action occurred while their mates could not see them.
the possibility that males interacted with the female simply because
they were lonely when their mate was out of sight, the researchers
replaced the female with a male. The level of male-male interaction was
the same whether or not the female partner was looking.
fidelity may be a quick, accurate indicator of his parental quality,"
say the authors in Animal Behaviour (vol 53, p 1017). Courtship with
other females conflicts with the male's reproductive duties, they say.
When free in aviaries, the more time males spend flirting with other
females the less time they spend at the nest. Errant males also raise
Males may hide their infidelity to avoid being
turfed out and replaced. "Replacing him would not be a big deal," says
Clark. They may also want to avoid being henpecked. When reunited with
their mates, the males that had been caught cheating were subjected to
beak jabs and shrill, disapproving chirps.