US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in The Prairie Naturalist 33(2): June 2001. Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society


Males of polygynous bird species typically provide less parental care to their offspring than males of monogamous species (Ketterson and Nolan 1994). Generally, in polygynous species, a male forfeits some potential reproductive success ifhe shifts his reproductive effort from mating with multiple females to parental care (Trivers 1972, Gubemick et al. 1993, Schleicher et al. 1993). In the polygynous dickcissel (Spiza americana), singing and foraging activities constitute much of a male's time-activity budget (Schartz and Zimmerman 1971, Finck 1984). Although male dickcissels are attentive to their nests and mates (e.g., nest protection and vigilance) females incubate the eggs and feed the young (Gross 1921). Herein, we describe an account ofa male dickcissel feeding brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) young early in the breeding season, summarize and review previous reports of food provisioning by the male dickcissel, and discuss the rarity of this behavior in the dickcissel.