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Journal Article

Social Attraction in Nesting Least Terns: Effects of Numbers, Spacing, and Pair Bonds

Joanna Burger
The Condor
Vol. 90, No. 3 (Aug., 1988), pp. 575-582
DOI: 10.2307/1368345
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1368345
Page Count: 8
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Social Attraction in Nesting Least Terns: Effects of Numbers, Spacing, and Pair Bonds
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Abstract

These experiments examined the role of colony numbers, spacing pattern, and mating status on the social attraction of Least Terns (Sterna antillarum). Decoys were used to simulate different social conditions. Least Terns were more attracted to larger rather than smaller groups of terns, to terns spaced out at 1.5 m intervals rather than at 0.5 m intervals, to solitary rather than paired terns, and to plots containing single birds together with paired terns rather than to either alone. Taken together, these experiments suggest that colony size, spacing patterns, and mating status contribute to the relative social attraction of conspecific Least Tern groups. The specific choice of larger groups, larger interbird distances, and pairs plus singles allows (1) males to establish territories within the center of a colony, (2) both sexes to court unmated birds, and (3) both sexes to obtain maximum vigilance and antipredatory benefits from being in a larger group.

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