Michael T. Murphy

Date of Award

Spring 7-10-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiv, 100 pages)


Eastern kingbird -- Behavior -- Oregon -- Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Eastern kingbird -- Monitoring -- Oregon -- Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Eastern kingbird -- Nests -- Oregon -- Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Parental behavior in animals




We have been studying the population of Eastern Kingbirds breeding in riparian habitats in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (eastern Oregon) since 2002. These efforts have created an ideal research environment wherein most adults in the population have been color banded and DNA sampled and, as part of other research projects, nearly all broods since 2003 have been paternity tested. I decided to use behavioral video recordings of parental nest behavior undertaken between 2003 and 2010 for two unrelated projects. First, I tested the effectiveness of video sampling nesting behavior (see below and chapter 2). Second, I tested whether male kingbirds were able to affect their level of paternal investment in accordance with their level or realized paternity (see below and chapter 3).

Chapter 2 was split into three distinct questions: 1) are parental nesting behaviors repeatable, 2) is a one hour sample sufficient to capture variability in these behaviors, and 3) is the first hour of recording sufficient to capture variability in these behaviors. I found overwhelming evidence that the behaviors I measured were repeatable. This is truly important, for if repeatability was disproven, it would call into question the use of sampling throughout the field of animal behavior. I similarly found strong evidence that a one hour sample was sufficient to capture variability in parental behaviors. From this I was able to suggest that further sampling effort would be better spent increasing sample size rather than observation length. Testing whether the first hour of recording was sufficient to capture variability in parental behavior found more muddled results. While there generally was correlation between behavioral values in the first hour and those over a longer observation period, most behaviors were found to have significantly lower values in the first hour. I tested whether this was the result of a lingering observer effect or a natural effect of time of day and concluded that an observer effect was the more likely explanation.

In chapter 3, I ran one of the more in depth and complicated tests for a relationship between paternal investment and realized paternity that I was able to find in the literature. I used the standard male feeding rate as a measure of male investment as well as a far more nuanced measure derived from the first Eigenvector of an analysis of six different paternal behaviors. These were both tested using Akaike's Information Criterion against a number of variables likely to affect parental behavior, including realized paternity. Ultimately, I found no evidence that kingbirds were able to affect paternal investment in response to lost paternity, and conclude that they likely had no means to assess realized paternity within the nest of their social mate. However, from the other parameters tested I was able to find that males increased their investment as brood size increased and as the female spent more time attending, but not feeding, the nestlings. Also, male investment decreased as territory density increased and flight feather length increased. Theory surrounding the variability of extrapair paternity in birds can be used to account for these results. In a denser population males are predicted to reduce paternal effort for one of two reasons: increased likelihood of paternity loss in his own nest and an increased investment in pursuing extrapair copulations of his own. Longer flight feathers are a sign of age and quality in kingbirds, so males with this trait are expected to spend more time pursuing extrapair copulations as they are more likely to be successful in this endeavor.

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