Mating system of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata undulata in eastern Morocco

Authors: Yves HINGRAT and Michel SAINT JALME

Published: Volume 52(1), June 2005. Pages 91-102.

Language: English

Keywords: exploded-lek, food resources, habitat use, habitat selection and vegetation structure


Aims: Among polygynous mating systems, the lekking strategy is recognised when the four following criteria are met: (1) display males aggregate at specific sites; (2) there is no male parental care; (3) the only resource females find at the lek are males´gametes; (4) females can freely select their mate(s). In Morocco, the Houbara Bustard mating strategy partially fulfills this definition. Display males are greatly separated and form so-called "exploded-leks" where females can forage or even nest, therefore failing to fulfil the third criteria of the lek definition. When leks contain critical resources for females, the strategy is a resource-based mating system. To verify the importance of resources in the Houbara mating system the breeding habitat use and selection of 7 females and 13 males was studied and compared to food resources availability (arthropod biomasses) and vegetation structure. The spatial relationship between female home-ranges, nests and leks was then studied.

Results and Conclusions: Both sexes were significantly selective in comparison to habitat availability, but breeding habitat use significantly differed between sexes. Habitat preference and avoidance were not related to arthropod biomasses that appeared homogeneously distributed across habitats. Females brood preferentially in the reg with tall perennials that was not preferred by males. The percentage of overlapping between female breeding ranges and leks was low (21%) and 78% of nests were outside leks. Critical resources for females were not situated within leks. The mating strategy of the Houbara population is a true "exploded-lek".

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