Parental Strategies of the Feral Indian Peahen Pavo cristatus

Budgey, Helen Victoria (1994). Parental Strategies of the Feral Indian Peahen Pavo cristatus. PhD thesis The Open University.



The Indian peafowl is a large, polygynously breeding species in which the female is entirely responsible for care of the precocial young. Parental expenditure was investigated in peahens throughout incubation and fledging, using both material and behavioural measures of expenditure. The scope of the study was extremely broad, but four main questions were addressed (see below). In addition, the effects of several potentially confounding physiological and environmental variables were considered.

Is parental expenditure related to the residual reproductive value of the parent, or to the costs of expenditure for parental fitness? There is no evidence that peahens vary their expenditure in relation to their own age, and hence residual reproductive value. Female weight also has little influence on investment, except as a constraining factor on the more demanding forms of care, such as brood defence and egg production.

Is parental expenditure related to the reproductive value of the offspring, or to the benefits of expenditure for offspring fitness? Offspring reproductive value is predicted to increase and renesting potential to decrease over the season, but behavioural measures of expenditure do not vary predictably over time. All these measures decline with chick age, suggesting that investment is adjusted to chick vulnerability rather than reproductive value.

Does parental expenditure vary with clutch/brood size in accordance with the predictions for shared and unshared parental investment? Vigilance increases with clutch size but not with brood size, thus supporting the hypothesis that it is an unshared form of anti-predator behaviour (Lazarus & Inglis 1986), for the case that predators typically take an entire clutch but only single chicks. However, brood defence increases with brood size; females may perceive me as a threat to the entire brood, so that defence is shared rather than unshared. More detailed examination indicates that some measures may shift from shared towards unshared investment (or vice versa) with chick age.

Is brood amalgamation an adaptive strategy? Observations and playback experiments suggest that both nest parasitism and gang-brooding can be adaptive strategies, whereas dump nesting and adoption may result from particular constraints.

In summary, parental expenditure in the peahen appears to be determined primarily by its benefit for her offspring and its costs to herself, rather than by the reproductive value of either party. Observations generally support the predictions for shared and unshared investment. Brood amalgamation is common, and can be adaptive in some circumstances.

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