Week 5 – eCornell Course – “Courtship and Rivalry in Birds”

We have recently enrolled in an eCornell course called “Courtship and Rivalry in Birds“. This is a 5-week course and here is a recap of the third module/week of this course. [View Week 1] [View Week 2] [View Week 3] [View Week 4]

The focus this week was cooperative-breeding among birds, specifically that of Florida Scrub-Jays, one of the most interesting birds in the U.S. Cooperative-breeding is rather rare among birds but has some great benefits. The young of a pair assists its parents to raise more young (siblings) which increases the overall number of successfully fledged birds. This breeding method is useful in the scrub-jay’s habitat since food is scarce and it would be harder for the young (helpers) to go out on their own right away and breed.

Over time, this strategy enables more birds to fledge and larger territories to be acquired which eventually leads to the helper birds carving out their own breeding “plot”.

Some other cooperative-breeding birds showcased were Pied Kingfisher, American Crow, Groove-billed Ani, Green Woodhoopoe, Acorn Woodpecker, and Superb Fairywren.

The strategy works for these birds in improving overall breeding success but it is somewhat confusing when compared to all the world’s birds. Why don’t all or most birds employ this strategy? What about birds that gladly associate at feeders or other areas of high amounts of food? How come some birds found in scarce habitats do NOT participate in cooperative-breeding?

A discussion finished up week 5 with other cooperative behaviors among birds (outside the nest).

After the final discussion we have completed the eCornell Course “Courtship and Rivalry Among Birds”.

Another session of the course begins January 6, 2010.

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