love the lead
(AP) — The love life of a
could make a country music classic: "If your song don't pass muster,
chickadee has a cheatin' heart,
to find another lover if her mate fails to win his daily song contests
with rivals. In effect, she decides that if her mate is a loser, he
be the only papa in her nest, say researchers at Queen's University in
Mennill, co-author of a study
Friday in the journal Science, said mates of high-ranking male
chickadees are more likely to be unfaithful than are the mates of
are accustomed to hearing their
mates dominate a song contest," Mennill said. "It is quite a shocking
to their ears to hear them lose a song contest."
happens, he said, the female
out before dawn and meet with a rival male for a coupling. Then she
back home as if nothing happened and continues to live with her
extra matings are just short
— about 30 seconds," said Mennill. The long-term partners "do remain
in a social sense."
these extra matings is that
in the nest have been fathered by some other male chickadee, he said.
the betrayed male apparently never knows.
he established by DNA
analysis of blood
from the chicks that one or two birds per clutch had a father than the
one that raised them.
chickadees are challenged virtually
to a song contest with rival males. They use the contests to defend
the males that sing," said
"Every male chickadee has only one song — two notes that sound like
sings and the other then sings
a competition that may last for several minutes.
very aggressive, he'll go
a set of routines where he will match the pitch and try to overlap the
song of his opponent," Mennill said.
going on, the female is
gauging who is winning. If her mate loses, she remembers.
proved the chickadee cheating by
some of the bird songs and then engaging in a singing contest with a
effect is that the female is
to engage in extrapair copulations if the high-ranking partner was
I have seen a male follow the
and it did turn into a bit of a fight between the two males and the two
females," said Mennill. "But usually these things are very quick and
female can sneak away and be back before her mate notices."
of high-ranking males are most
to cheat, he said. Rank among chickadees is established in the fall
the birds gather in flocks that will last through the winter. Somehow
birds establish an Alpha, or primary, male and female, a Beta, or
in rank, male and female, and so on.
Alpha chickadee for whom the
make way at a food source," Mennill said. "The lowest ranking bird has
to wait for everyone else."
chickadee partners may stay
for years, the birds do have a system rather like divorce, said
instance, the Alpha female dies or
by a hawk, then the Alpha male becomes a nestwrecker.
hours, the Beta female will
partner and pair with the Alpha male, leaving the Beta male alone,"
said. "The females will do a lot of social changing in order to pair
a higher ranking male."
another country song.