In this study, we investigated the role of display and mating system of the little known Neotropical Blue-black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina). Males form aggregations and execute a highly conspicuous display, resembling traditional leks. Number of displaying males declined throughout the study period, though displaying intensity during the season showed no variation. Individual males had significantly different displaying rates and also defended territories of very different sizes, ranging from 13.0 to 72.5 m2, but we found no association between territory sizes and the average displaying rates of the resident males. There also is no association between displaying rates of males and size and vegetation structure of their territories. Four of seven nests were found within male territories and observations indicated that both sexes invest equally in caring for nestlings. Results suggest that the Blue-black Grassquit does not fit into the traditional lek mating system, contrary to what has been proposed in the scarce literature available. However, it is clear that these apparently monogamous birds behave like a lekking species. We speculate about the possibility that aggregation of nesting territories in this species may be due to sexual selection pressures, and suggest that the Blue-black Grassquit may be an ideal candidate to test Wagner's (1997) hidden-lek hypothesis.
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Vol. 118 • No. 2