Altricial birds face the challenge of defending their offspring against potential threats in a fixed location: their nest. In species with biparental care, both parents have an equal interest in defending their nest, although the sexes may differ in their investment in anti-predatory behaviours. We conducted a field experiment to investigate sex-asymmetry in anti-predatory behaviours in a breeding population of Lined Seedeaters Sporophila lineola, a small passerine that exhibits sexual dimorphism in adult plumage colour, in south-eastern Brazil. In Lined Seedeaters females are known to be solely responsible for nest building and incubation. Males help to feed the nestlings and are expected to assume the main role in performing anti-predatory behaviours. We presented stuffed models of nest predators (toucans Ramphastidae) and non-predators (pigeons Columbidae) at active nests and measured the number of alarm calls per minute, number of visits during the trial and latency to resume nest visits after the trial. Our results show that birds emitted alarm calls at higher rates when facing a predator than a control stimulus. Moreover, males generally emitted more alarm calls than females, irrespective of the treatment. Both parents did not visit the nest during the predator trials and they took longer to return to the nest after the model had been concealed than during the control trials. Although males seem to take the main role when it comes to responding to intruders (predator and non-predator), further studies, testing a bigger array of predatory stimuli, are needed to better test and understand sex asymmetry in risk-taking behaviours.
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Vol. 109 • No. 1