In many birds, females prospecting for high quality breeding resources have to inspect a number of males and their territories to make a good mating choice, yet in the face of competition with other females, the search time should be minimized. The sequential sampling of potential mates and territories by females is seldom witnessed. In a study of breeding Northern Lapwings, Vanellus vanellus, in Norway, we observed a female during the pair-formation period visiting seven territories in 105 mins, spending 15–20 mins on each of six territories pecking food from the ground and watching the resident male performing nest-scraping displays. One of the males was already mated, and on this territory the prospecting female spent only ∼2 mins. The observations show that female Northern Lapwings are potentially able to sample a high number of available territories in only a few hours.
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