We tested the hypothesis that the basis of the variation in reproductive strategy among male yellow warblers (Dendroica petechia) is a tradeoff in the allocation of reproductive effort to intrasexual competition (territorial effort) and to parental care (parental effort). Since a negative correlation between level of parental effort and amount of brown streaking on the breast (plumage score) has already been demonstrated in this species, this study looked for evidence of a positive correlation of territorial effort with plumage score and a negative correlation with parental effort. Analysis of the spatial and temporal use of territories, prior to egg-laying, by males with different plumage scores supported the prediction that brighter (higher plumage score) males allocate more effort to territorial establishment and maintenance (Fig. 1). Male plumage score was positively and highly significantly correlated with six different measures of the relative amount of time spent, rate of energy expended, and risk of injury assumed by each male during territorial activities. The level of territorial effort was also found to be negatively correlated with the level of parental effort expended by the same males later in the season, confirming that there is a tradeoff in allocation of reproductive effort to these two major components. Further analysis revealed that territory quality was positively correlated with male plumage score (Figs. 3 and 4), while average nestling growth rate and other indices of reproductive success were not (Fig. 6). These results suggest that increased territorial effort by brighter males enables them to occupy higher quality territories where high levels of parental effort are not necessary to maintain high levels of reproductive success. Since reproductive success was not correlated with plumage score, this study further supports the differential allocation hypothesis that different males are using alternative strategies for the allocation of reproductive effort.
This study was done near the Queen's University Biological Station, 50 km north of Kingston, Ontario during May and June 1985. The two study areas (areas 1 and 2) were described earlier (Studd and Robertson 1985a, 1985b). Males were captured in mist-nets and individually color-marked. We assessed the percentage of brown streaking on the breast by using a transparent grid placed over the breast (for further details see Studd and Robertson 1985a, 1985b). In this paper, the actual percentage brown scores have been used for analysis, rather than plumage rank which is based on relative appearance (as in Studd and Robertson 1985a, 1985b).