CIE Spotlight: Bonding beyond the pair in a monogamous bird: impact on social structure in adult rooks

Mylene Mariette (Photo: Pat Scala)
Mylene Mariette (Photo: Pat Scala)

Authors: Boucherie, Palmyre H.; Mariette, Mylene M.; Bret, Celine; Dufour, Valerie

Source: BEHAVIOUR, 153 (8):897-925, 2016

Brief summary of the paper: The formation of social bonds outside the mated pair is not frequently reported in monogamous birds, although it may be expected in some species like rooks, living in groups all year round. Here we explore the social structure of captive adult rooks over three breeding seasons.

We recorded proximities and affiliations (i.e., allofeeding, allopreening, contact-sit) to classify relationships according to their strength. Three categories of relationships emerged: primary (i.e., pairs), secondary and weak relationships. Affiliations and sexual behaviours were not restricted to pairs, and secondary relationships were clearly recognizable. Mixed-sex secondary relationships were qualitatively equivalent to pairs (i.e., same behaviours in the same proportions), although they were quantitatively less intense. Same sex pairs occurred, and were qualitatively equivalent to mixed-sex pairs.

Overall we found that rooks social structure is more than just an aggregation of pairs, which highlights the importance of considering extra-pair relationships in socially monogamous birds.