CEREMONIAL GATHERINGS OF THE MAGPIE PICA PICA: TERRITORY PROBING AND ACQUISITION by T. R. BIRKHEAD and K. CLARKSON1) (Department of Zoology, The University, Sheffield S10 2TN, England) (With 3 Figures) (Acd., 18-II-1985) The conspicuous and spectacular ceremonial gatherings of the magpie Pica pica have been recorded and described by several workers (e.g. STEWART, 1910; WYNNE-EDWARDS, 1962; VINES, 1981), but their func- tion has remained obscure. Suggested functions include pair formation (DARWIN, 1874; STUBBS, 1910; BROWN, 1942) and competition for nest sites or territories (BAHRMANN, 1956; BAEYENS, 1979). Our preliminary observations supported BAEYENS' idea that gatherings were associated with competition for space. This is reasonable since the magpie is a resi- dent, permanently territorial species whose populations often contain floaters (BAEYENS, 1981a; VINES, 1981; CLARKSON, 1984; this study). Under such conditions competition for territories is likely to be intense. This paper describes the ceremonial gatherings of magpies and examines the idea that they are associated with competition for breeding space. Study area and methods The study was conducted in the Rivelin Valley on the outskirts of Sheffield (see BIRKHEAD, 1979, for details). Observations were made between 1978 and 1984. Approx- imately 75 % of all the magpies in the
Behaviour – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1985
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